Good Employees - Better EmployersWednesday, Jul 11, 2001
A conversation last week with a long established Canterbury large herd dairy farmer put some of the
issues of dairy farm employment in perspective.
Against claims that the South Island part of the NZ dairy industry was handling farm employment badly
he responded by saying that this was in fact not so. In his opinion it was the new conversions and
a few poorly constructed operations that were creating the noise that was carrying along the impression
that all was not well.
He believed it has become an established understanding that employment on first year conversions is
a hazardous undertaking for any waged, salaried or shared employee. In fact startups are to be avoided
and these positions are generally only filled when all other avenues have been exhausted by prospective
employees. These new jobs are generally taken up at the last moment.
Why is this? Simply because of the high expectation of the owner for instant success and the high probability
that the facilities will be incomplete or contain some design or construction fault and
the new herd will not get a satisfactory start for the season at the shed or out in the paddock.
It seems that the highly vocal section making claims of staffing doom and disaster may in fact be in
a minority, with problems that have very little to do with the availability of competent staff.
In fact the problems are more of the new owners own making – organizational failure. Perhaps often
not intentionally of their own making but as a result of unexpected constraints imposed by takeover
dates, funding, contractor availability and weather conditions. But never the less an owner
For all the criticism being heaped on dairy employers and employees it is quite clear that all the cows
were milked this last year in a fashion which give a record milk production season for the country.
Dairy staff should not be held responsible for problems that rest with their employers. For in the opinion
of this Canterbury large herd farmer it is the milking of the cows by the staff that counts
and in his experience they carry out that function very well.
Farm organisation and management is an owner responsibility that should not be confused or fudged into
claims of poor employee performance when production expectations are not met