Our Organisation Search
Quick Links
Toggle: Topics

Ongoing farm labour shortage evident again this spring

Ongoing farm labour shortage evident again this spring

Spring has definitely sprung on farms across Ireland with lambing and calving in full flow the past few weeks. However, one thing that has been highlighted is the continued lack of availability of labour on farms, Roisin Scully, KT Masters Student, Teagasc Ballinrobe, tells us more.

With plane loads of young people leaving Ireland weekly, be it for new experiences abroad or a better quality of life, the effects can be seen on farms nationwide as sons and daughters who previously would have been relied on to give a hand at this time of year are forced to leave and replacements simply cannot be found.

It is hard to pin point why there is limited interest in farm work, especially when the wage to a farm worker is very competitive and farmers are willing to pay if it means they are under less pressure and lower the risk of an accident occurring. That being said, volatile incomes may mean farms can only afford to hire seasonally, deterring people to get involved knowing their position may be gone in a few weeks.

This is where being a skilled labourer is beneficial and being capable of completing a number of tasks around the year means workers will have continued employment but may be required to change farms. Again, it has to be commended that farmers are willing to train unskilled staff and there are also plenty of resources available to receive training such as Farm Relief Services who are always looking for people to fill vacancies, with training provided and regularly updated.

Unfortunately, there is a reduced appetite among young people to face manual labour, especially with the extremely poor weather conditions we have endured since last October. While there has been huge advances with technology and automation on the majority of farms, there is still a requirement for physical work and general animal husbandry knowledge, which is not being taught as much. It is not entirely the labourers fault though and some workers are leaving positions where there are poor working conditions that make the job more time-consuming and in some cases dangerous. If some farm investments were made to infrastructure and equipment some of this hardship could be avoided. This is easier said than done with cost usually being the main reason for not improving or up-grading facilities, but, this will have to be re-considered in order to better retain skilled workers.

The amount of people undertaking studies in Agriculture is constantly increasing but unfortunately the number of graduates from these studies who are then actually farming is decreasing. The price of land combined with the cost of other inputs are making it too difficult for young people to begin farming on their own and returning to farm on the family farm may not provide enough income to support two salaries. Additionally, the work life balance that is ensured with off farm jobs, is making it difficult to entice people into the round the clock dedication required for farming.

To conclude, there is no one reason to the current labour shortage so there is no quick fix. If there are people interested in getting involved in working on farms, once they aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty and are willing to learn new skills, there will always be opportunities available, now more than ever.

Also read: Part-time dairy farm employees - developing mutually beneficial working relationships