Lakeland milk producers gear up for new labour on the farm

Lakeland milk producers gear up for new labour on the farm

As dairy farms continue to grow their milk production, farmers are increasingly seeing the need to recruit employees onto the farm and this requires a structured process to ensure that it works out successfully both for the farmer as employer and for the new recruit as employee, a new Labour Management course being run by Lakeland Dairies in conjunction with Teagasc and Macra Skillnet has advised.

Some 20 Lakeland milk producers have been participating in the course over the past four weeks. It was led by a well-known expert in this area, Dr. Nollaig Heffernan, who specialises in management, leadership and organisation. It was also delivered by Co-ordinators from the Lakeland Dairies / Teagasc Joint Programme and representatives from the Workplace Relations Commission.

The issue of Labour Management in farming is highly topical.  In a recent survey it was identified that over 93% of Lakeland milk suppliers have said they will stay in milk production for the future. In addition to farmers who have significantly grown their output, Lakeland milk suppliers said they will further expand their milk production by approximately 5% in each year to 2022.

This raises important issues around the provision of labour to cope with this expansion as, in general, farmers need to pursue a business model that is sustainable and that also enables them to establish an appropriate work-life balance.

In a recent survey it was identified that just over one-third of Lakeland milk suppliers currently employ staff on their farms. Of these, 8% employ staff on a full time basis and 28% on a part time basis. Two-thirds of Lakeland milk suppliers do not currently employ any labour on the farm, other than the family’s own inputs.

Lakeland Dairies’ Member Relations Manager, Eamonn Duignan said,

The Lakeland Labour Management course in conjunction with Teagasc and Macra Skillnet covers a wide range of labour management issues including how to determine what new skills are required, how to go about hiring staff and the induction process. It’s essential to get the right person for your farm.  The course provides information on how to go about an employee search including advertising in relevant places and interview skills. It also covers employment law and how to provide appropriate working terms and conditions.

Effective communication with employees is also essential so that they can understand how the farm works and what is reasonably expected of them. The participants in the course have found it highly informative and beneficial and this will provide them with the confidence to plan for and create employment opportunities on their farm. 

Bringing in a new employee for the first time does add a further layer into the management of the farm but the benefits of additional labour far outweigh the possible stress of ‘going it alone’ which can, in itself, constrain the progress and success of a growing farm. The course also covers interpersonal skills including how to manage and motivate staff and the establishment of ongoing working relationships that work well for both the employer and employee. It helps farmers to understand their own recruitment needs and to adapt their management style to create the best possible outcome for their dairy business.

Half of all Lakeland milk suppliers said they have identified a successor to take over their dairy business. The majority of successors (80%) are all under 35 years of age and the vast majority of these have already received training ranging from the Green Cert to a Primary Degree in Agriculture.

The Labour Management Course is a further initiative in a series of Lakeland Dairies programmes designed to support milk producers. Lakeland Dairies and Macra na Feirme also recently launched a new Land Mobility Programme. The innovative new initiative will help all types of farmers, farm families, new entrants and land owners to consider their options for collaborative arrangements leading to better use of land resources for the mutual benefit of farmers and land owners. The programme is working to facilitate workable arrangements throughout the Lakeland Dairies catchment area.

Farmer owned Lakeland Dairies operates across 15 counties on a cross border basis, processing milk into a wide range of value-added dairy foodservice products and food ingredients. Lakeland has a portfolio of 240 different dairy products which it exports to 80 countries worldwide.