A six-bedroom, two-bathroom, newly painted house with a renovated kitchen for rent at $300 a week sounds like a good deal, given the Sunshine Coast's housing crisis that's leaving many families homeless.
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Obi Obi Dairy is offering this large farmhouse for $300 a week for a prospective herd manager.(Supplied: Obi Obi Dairy)

Key points:
Obi Obi dairy is offering a herd manager job at $70-75K a year
That job comes with the option to rent an affordable, six-bedroom farmhouse
Sunshine Coast is in the midst of a rental crisis

And the house comes with a permanent job bringing in between $70,000 and $75,000 a year.

Despite these drawcards, however, Obi Obi Dairy at Kenilworth has not been able to fill a herd manager position that has been vacant since January.

Nor a milker position, with an option of renting a two-bedroom cottage for $285 a week, including electricity and water.

Kenilworth is a pretty country town, with a popular cheese factory of its own and a bakery with donuts that have tourists lining up out the door.

Dairy owners Sara and Markus Bucher also own Maleny Cheese. Between the two businesses, they have five permanent positions that need workers.

“It’s been very challenging and for months now we’ve run advertisements nationally, locally, and even appealing through social media for locals to suggest people who might have a few days available to work with us,” Ms Bucher said.

“We’ve tried every strategy we could possibly find. Sadly, still to no avail.”

At Maleny Cheese there is a full-time cafe manager role, a high-turnover barista role and a production assistant’s job for three days a week on the factory floor that have been vacant for months.

“One of the strategies we’ve always used is to reward our team members above award [and], in some cases, quite considerably above award,” Ms Bucher said.

“But even that just doesn’t seem to be compelling them to come onboard with us, or even for that matter, make [an] application to us.

“In the past, we’ve run an advertisement in the cafe role and received several hundred applicants, and these days we’re grateful if we get 10 applicants.

“And then we telephone these people for interviews and try to set an appointment [time] and they just don’t turn up to the appointment. It’s very frustrating.

“We are happy to train people. We’re happy to give them an opportunity.”

The business has had to adapt to staffing shortages by not serving hot meals on Mondays and Tuesdays and shortening its trading hours from 10am to 3pm instead of 9am to 5pm.

As well as early starts, the herd management role at Obi Obi Dairy requires skills in dairy hygiene, herd health, calf nutrition, milking performance and implementation of a breeding program.

“A role such as a herd manager on a dairy farm is usually around $65,000 annual salary, but we have consistently paid that as a $70,000 to $75,000 wage,” Ms Bucher said.

The businesses employ 32 staff between them, which includes three high school students working part-time.

“We are a family business and we know our team members personally,” Ms Bucher said.

“We have a back office that supports us, a legal team effectively behind us, who write our contracts and make sure that we’re doing everything correctly and legally.

“Some of our staff have been with us already 11 to 12 years and, in this day and age, I think that’s a little bit special.”

Widespread challenge

Queensland Dairyfarmers’ Organisation (QDO) president Brian Tessman agreed that finding workers had been difficult.

“There are poor perceptions out there because of the troubles the dairy industry’s been through, but there are still lots of opportunities,” Mr Tessman said.

“We definitely need more training, especially training in business skills in dairy, and also we need to investigate what are the other blockages to get people with higher skills coming into the industry.”

Mr Tessman said dairying did not rely as heavily on overseas workers as other agricultural industries that have been hard hit by travel restrictions imposed by the pandemic.

“Getting skilled people to move from the city to the country isn’t an isolated problem, even to what is, possibly, a better lifestyle in towns that are far from remote.

“It’s something you see in the medical profession where there are doctors abundant in the cities and in such short supply in the country.”

Anik Dairy, owned by dairy major Lactalis Group, has named SubhashisBasu as its new chief executive officer.

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