Farm Relief Services (FRS), in conjunction with New Zealand Dairy Careers, are embarking on a new exchange programme which will see up to 70 Kiwi farmers placed on Irish dairy farms between January and June next year.
The venture is the latest in a series of initiatives aimed at drawing employment into the expanding sector which will need an additional workforce of 6,000 by 2025, according to Teagasc.
Padraig Madden, operations manager at FRS, said: “We must think outside the box.
“We met with Dairy Careers New Zealand and we’ve agreed to source people for each other. Every year Irish people go there to work on farms independently, through placement or colleges so we’ll be their point of contact here and they’ll do the same for us.
“We’ve agreed to source 70 people for each other, male and female aged 20 to 30 with a strong agri background and good dairy experience. They will be here for next spring,” he said adding that workers will have work holiday permits.
FRS will work closely with interested farmers nationwide and will help source accommodation. A wage of €10.50-€11 per hour is expected to be paid to the new workers.
Farmers are already looking to next spring following a tough calving season that saw Dairygold Co-op warn farmer burnout could derail the growth of the sector.
FRS is already experiencing a 15-20pc rise in demand for farm labour with dairy farmers booking workers for milking, calf rearing and machinery relief earlier than ever.
“People have been calling since late May, early June to make bookings. There is enormous pressure building already for next spring, they don’t want a repeat of the spring gone by, we could have hired another 150 people to cope with demand,” he said. Mr Madden admits the incoming New Zealanders will help rather than solve the labour shortage in dairying.
“I’ve been trying to source people in Europe where economies have improved but getting 20 people with dairy experience together is next to impossible. The numbers of 10-15 years ago are not there, it will take numerous avenues to solve this.”
Paidi Kelly, research officer at Teagasc Moorepark says the expansion of the Irish dairy sector must be promoted in New Zealand to attract Irish emigrants back home.
“There is a lack of awareness in New Zealand of the career opportunities here, they mightn’t realise that Irish milk production had increased by 35pc in the last six years,” he said.
He said the dairy sector holds huge employment potential for rural people of farming and non farming backgrounds.
“There is no silver bullet. we need to look at how we can attract people in and how we can reduce demand by making our farms more labour efficient.”
For more on the FRS dairy exchange programme contact Padraig Madden at firstname.lastname@example.org.