Milkers for the CowsWednesday, Mar 14, 2001
Reports that 400 prospective employees have applied for the 200 positions recently offered by dairy
companies in the South Island must be heartening to the dairy industry.
The prospects and the image must have an appeal to new comers to the industry.
However reports of employment problems inside the farm gate paints a very different picture. Estimates
into the thousands, of the shortfall in available staff for this coming spring will present farm
owners and sharemilkers with some stressful periods managing their workloads.
In the past a feature of smaller family farms was the direct participation of wives and children to
fill this gap but in the new industry this luxury backup has been lost. Stories are murmured in the
industry of individuals facing milking alone up to 1000 cows because of a breakdown in the employment
structure or the availability of any assistance.
It is clear that reward is a major consideration at time of initial employment but the 'dissent point'
soon shifts to conditions, relationships and recognition.
The processing part of the industry has put a lot of effort and resource into improving employment conditions
over the past 20 years promoting an environment of professionalism that has become a major
component of the industries image.
On farm there has been a general employment environment of insecurity compounded by work driven by the
seasonal demands of the farm. An environment where only the persistent or the lucky survived.
Inspite of the huge lifts in on farm worker efficiency the developing industry structure is pointing
to the need for more salaried or waged employees rather than less. While it may be claimed that sharemilkers
and contractors have an expanding role - that role also relies on the availability of
Without an improvement in on farm employment environment the daily farming grind will become a limitation
to the dairy industries growth.