Dairy farmers in desperate need of workers as sector explodes

Soaring numbers of dairy cows will create increased demand for workers

Louise Hogan

Farmers are voicing major concerns over a labour shortage during the busy spring calving season, as a mammoth dairy expansion moves two years ahead of targets.

The State’s largest farmer-owned dairy co-operative Dairygold revealed a quarter of its milk suppliers had signalled labour as a major obstacle to their future plans with more than 530 workers needed.

The in-depth analysis was carried out amid concerns that farmer burnout could derail growth in the expanding dairy sector.

Teagasc research officer Paidi Kelly said the addition of 350,000 cows following the scrapping of milk quotas had created a huge amount of extra work on farms.

It is estimated that more than 6,000 people will need to enter the industry by 2025 as cow numbers soar from 1.4 million to 1.6 million, and the milk pool hits 8.3 billion litres.

A major milking skills programme is being rolled out to try to train potential part-time workers for the dairy sector after a pilot run in the south-east successfully recruited jobseekers, cattle and beef farmers and a number of women to learn the necessary skills.

Padraig Madden, operations manager with Farm Relief Services (FRS) Network, said it would have its biggest ever numbers of employees on farms this spring at more than 1,300, with a waiting list building for peak calving time.

“It is going to be a very serious spring this year,” he warned, with “huge pressure” for the spring months when the bulk of calves will be born.

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