Disease? Not On My Farm! Ambassador Blog
5 Tips for Managing Labour Shortages – Fraser Jones
Fraser Jones milks 1,450 Holstein Friesians, currently employing 37 people across three sites near Welshpool. In this blog the Disease? Not On My Farm! ambassador shares his advice on how to overcome potential labour shortages in the dairy sector:
1. Be flexible
Recruitment has been a continual challenge post-Brexit and during the pandemic. Before Brexit, over half of our workforce was Polish. Now that we’re recruiting more British staff it has meant adapting to overcome some of the negative perceptions about agricultural work which has discourages some people from entering the industry.
Many see working with cows as involving long, unsociable hours. I’ve found that a healthy work-life balance is as important as the pay you’re offering when recruiting people to milk cows or rear calves – if not more so.
When somebody comes for an interview, we find out what they do outside of work, their hobbies and interests, whether they have a family, and what they’re looking for from the role. It helps to build the job around their lifestyle.
That’s has meant shift patterns have changed to become more flexible. We’ve now got more people working part-time. It does mean we’re employing more individuals, which brings its own challenges – however overall, it’s working well.
2. Technology makes life simpler
We’ve consistently invested in modern technology which helps improve efficiencies across the board. This includes our rotary parlour which is highly automated. By integrating technology into your dairy system, you can help make the job less physically demanding and more attractive to new recruits.
3. Promote herd health
It’s hugely important that farmers demonstrate how much we value animal welfare to be able to attract and retain the right staff. It’s crucial to show that we’re putting the cows at the forefront of our business by taking proactive steps to keep our herds healthy.
It’s vital that prospective employees see how much you care for your animals, as it can be seen as a positive indicator of how you’ll treat them.
In my role as a Disease? Not On My Farm! ambassador, I prioritise a preventative approach to herd health and insist all my team follows my example.
Cow welfare and productivity has a knock-on effect on staff wellbeing. If you’re striving for high health and welfare, generally, you see fewer problems on the farm, and that helps to create a happier atmosphere and improves team motivation.
4. Establish effective team communication
For us, farming is very much a team effort. We try to give every individual a level of responsibility. Even if somebody has just started working for me, and they don’t have a farming background, I always encourage the rest of the team to listen to their opinions. Being open to different perspectives helps individuals to feel valued and respected. One small, suggested change to our working practices could end up saving significant time or money.
Communication is key to engaging your team and working as efficiently as possible. Everyone needs to be on the same journey, buying in to the long-term vision for the farm. For me, that means continued expansion to maximise milking numbers and making the most of our ground.
5. Showcase the dairy sector as a rewarding career
British dairy farmers are fighting over the same limited pool of skilled individuals. This means that often, when one farm is recruiting, new employees are coming from other farming businesses, leaving these producers short of workers.
The sector needs to effectively communicate just how rewarding working in the dairy sector is. We need to present ourselves in a more relatable way, telling the story of how working on a dairy farm is a journey – from seeing animals being born, nurturing them as they grow and working with the calf to the cow, throughout their life and in amongst the herd, to produce a high-quality food source that provides essential nutrition.