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International Dairy Labour Workforce Conference

The Teagasc International Agricultural Workforce Conference will take place on Tuesday, 10th July at the Radisson Blu Hotel, Cork. Speaking in advance of the Conference, Professor Gerry Boyle, Director of Teagasc said: “An international and national panel of speakers has been assembled to explore farm labour, one of the major issues that will shape the future of dairy farming in Ireland.”

International Dairy Labour Workforce Conference
Pictured at the launch are Dr. Marion Beecher, Research Officer; Dr Tom O'Dwyer, Head of Dairy Knowledge Transfer, Teagasc; TJ Flanagan, Chief Executive ICOS; Professor Gerry Boyle, Teagasc Director; Professor Pat Dillon, Head of Animal & Grassland Research and Innovation Programme and Dr. Bernadette O'Brien, Research Officer, Teagasc Photo O'Gorman Photography.

The conference promises to be an informative and interesting day for both farmers and those working in the dairy industry.

Teagasc has identified the lack of availability of skilled labour as one of the major limitations to the further growth of the dairy industry. Many dairy industries globally have faced this challenge previously, hence Teagasc in association with ICOS have organised this conference with international experts, to identify solutions and strategies to overcome these challenges. This will include attracting, developing and retaining highly skilled people into the industry.  

The work force challenge is a complex issue with a number of perspectives and implications, e.g. work/life balance, profitability, efficiency benchmarks, work organization, farm facilities and practises, well-being and safety of the owner/operator (and staff); availability of manager, skilled and casual labour sources, people management skills, perception of farming as a career and succession planning. Thus the issue has to be addressed through different strategies.

This conference is very timely as the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Michael Creed T.D. recently launched the ‘People in Dairy Action Plan’ which aims to address a series of labour and human capital issues in the dairy sector.

Professor Ruth Nettle from University of Melbourne will examine the International trends in farm labour demand and availability and what it means for farmers, advisors, industry and government. Dr. Bernadette O’Brien will outline current labour efficiency measures on Irish dairy farms and how they may be improved. Recent changes in the structure of Irish dairy farms will be outlined by Paidi Kelly from Teagasc, and the estimated requirement for additional labour to 2025. 

The LEAN Farm Programme as rolled out by Dairygold, will be described by farmers Patrick Shine and Pat Ryan, and a panel discussion on this will follow. Given that the ‘Milking’ task is taking between a third and half of overall work on  farms, Dr. John Upton, outlines the measures required to reduce milking times to ensure a safe working environment for farmers and at the same time encourage the next generation of farmers to enter the industry. Pat Hickey, who has personal experience of both herringbone and rotary parlours currently on his farms will discuss the merits of each.

In the final session, Dr.Callum Eastwood from DairyNZ, New Zealand will take a new approach to examining new dairy workplace designs while pondering the challenge of attracting and retaining staff on dairy farms of 2030. Following on from this, Mark Cassidy who farms in County Meath will outline his people management strategy for springtime, which is a real labour bottleneck on many farms.

The conference promises to be an informative and interesting day for both farmers and those working in the dairy industry.

To book a place at the conference, visit https://www.teagasc.ie/news--events/national-events/events/ag-workforce-conference.php