Most places you go now, you see signs on windows and doors of businesses looking for staff. The most obvious place to see these are in retail and hospitality sectors.

Some of these businesses are so stuck for staff that they are considering reducing opening hours to give existing staff more time off and possibly to make it more attractive for potential new staff.

The shortage of labour on Irish farms is nothing new, but, if anything, has become more pronounced over the last 12 months.

The recruitment pages of the Irish Farmers Journal are full of dairy farm manager and dairy farm assistant posts.

A few years ago, farmers who struggled to attract staff were generally those with poorer facilities, offering long days and had poor people skills. But now those with opposite attributes are finding it hard to attract staff also.

If the 'good employers' are finding it hard to get employees, what hope have the others?


The following are some of the things I think farmers can be doing to make dairying a more attractive workplace.

  • Offer a clean workplace, with standard start and end times, canteen and changing/toilet facilities and regular payment.
  • Remove as much drudgery as possible from the job. Invest in facilities and equipment to make the job as easy as possible.
  • Farmers need to understand that employees are different to farm owners in that they don’t own the business that they’re working in, hence won’t put up with drudgery or long working hours and why should they?
  • Rosters need to be compliant with working time directives, but they also need to be flexible.
  • This flexibility may mean that jobs are shared between two or more people, milking times are altered and more use is made of once-a-day milking from earlier in the season.
  • Many farms in the UK are now offering a five days on and two days off working roster, with others offering a seven days on and three days off roster. Each of these rosters can work with every second weekend off.
  • There are probably people in your community who would love to work on farms, but don’t want to do the standard hours, for example some might want to milk every morning or evening, some might just want to feed calves, etc.