Good farm people on the lookout for work
A shabby spring and some shoddy employer manners have brought the cream to the top of the dairy labour market, Ali Tocker reports
Farmers in urgent need of staff should hire now because there are good people on the market due to a difficult calving season and some bad employer behaviour, dairy recruitment expert John Fegan says.
It was usually hard to find farm staff at this time of year but some top operators were on the market right now due to tough circumstances, said Fegan who operates dairy recruitment company Fegan & Co.
Calving was always the most stressful time of year on dairy farms but this spring had been particularly tough due to the lack of fine weather, Fegan said.
‘‘We have seen mental, physical and emotional bailout. Some people have just got to the end of their tether.
‘‘Some others went on to farms in good faith at the start of the season but found promises weren’t delivered on.
‘‘So there are good people worth looking at right now who are on the market for genuine reasons.’’
Fegan said to guard against losing good staff and having staff burn out on farms, employers should make sure they gave their staff breaks during calving.
About 15 per cent of dairy farmers in the Waikato were following outdated practice and expecting staff to work seven-day weeks for the two months of calving.
‘‘Some farmers shut their gates for eight weeks and say: no weekends off and no holidays. While people might get time off during the day, there’s no respite from the farm.
‘‘This practice is an overhang from Waikato being a traditional dairying area. It doesn’t happen in Canterbury and Southland.’’
He emphasised the majority of employers were good bosses.
Other organisations have been warning times are tough for farmers right now, and are encouraging farmers, farm staff and families to reach out for help if they feel they are in over their heads.
Federated Farmers Waikato president James Houghton said farmers were grappling with multiple issues this year, including lower payouts, weather challenges, biosecurity incursions such as the PSA-V kiwifruit vine disease and the continued effects of the global financial crisis.
Rural Support Trust chairman Neil Bateup said farmers had sought help because of the wet and challenging spring.
‘‘Things are not always easy in spring for farmers and when we get a wet spring like we’ve had, we see more people contacting us looking for support.
‘‘Workload and weather conditions in spring are the two biggest drivers of stress at the moment.’’
DairyNZ-funded research on 1000 dairy farmers nationwide shows the top causes of stress for dairy farmers are finances, workload, relationships and health.
Research leader Neels Botha said the most important message was that farmers and their families should seek help for stress before issues became crises.