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

South Waikato News - - FARMING -

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.

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