Demand for dairy workers has grown by at least 45% since the abolition of quotas.
Padraig Madden, operations manager for Farm Relief Services (FRS), said efforts were under way to source additional operators.
With 250 operators recruited last year and a further 100 sought for this spring, FRS has never had as many people on its books, but yet it cannot meet demand.
Teagasc has estimated that 6,000 new dairy workers would be required by 2025
“We have over 1,500 operators working for us. The way things are means labour demand is still outstripping supply,” Madden said.
Approximately 504,000 cows will be calved in February and 336,000 will be calved in March, representing 60% of the 1.4m cow national dairy herd.
Teagasc has estimated that 6,000 new dairy workers would be required by 2025.
Demand for workers is mainly among farmers with 50 to 150 cows who do not require a full-time labourer and only need extra help at calving.
Madden said this makes it difficult to retain workers as the busy period is followed by a lull in work.
He said the challenge was to retain good workers, especially in a growing economy.
FRS has been targeting drystock farmers and women in agriculture to bridge some of the gap.
“There are other options but if people realise there is good work on their doorsteps, guaranteed hours and flexible hours then they might consider it.
“We know they have the skillset and some of them may have the time to step in on another farm and earn valuable money.”
FRS has recruited 40 workers through its Dairy Operative Skills Programme. Most of them have come from non-farming backgrounds. Madden said these workers would become more important as the number of students in agricultural colleges falls.
There is also a continuing search for workers outside of Ireland. Programmes have been set up to bring seasonal workers from the likes of New Zealand and Lithuania. Northern Spain and Ukraine are also being explored as other potential sources.
“There’s not really one fix,” Madden said. “It’s something that will be sorted through a multifaceted approach.”