Dairy sector must act now to prevent recruitment crisis next year


The dairy industry must get better at marketing jobs on farm and make the workplace more appealing in order to prevent labour shortages next year, according to a dedicated labour expert.

Speaking on The Milk Digest podcast George Gordon from specialist dairy recruiters LKL said with restrictions coming in on recruiting foreign labour from next year, the industry has got to look at ways of getting more people in the UK to consider working on farms.

He said: “We are going off a cliff edge into this situation. It is a worry that some big dairy units reliant on foreign labour could be left with a labour shortage. Foreign workers have become an important part of the dairy farming team, especially for the last 10 years.”

Mr Gordon said after a decade of full employment in the UK following an economic boom now was the time to showcase the positives of working on dairy farms.

“Job security has been undervalued in this country over the last decade during the easy times. The dairy industry is very secure, buying milk to go in your cup of tea and on your cornflakes is not a luxury purchase, these jobs are not going away in a recession.

“Most career opportunities are situated in beautiful parts of the countryside often with good farm accommodation and access to great rural schools. We need to do a better job of marketing our advantages,” he said.

Mr Gordon also highlighted that farmers had to get better at managing staff to retain them. “We have got thousands of good people employed on dairy farms, but farms can often lose staff because they are poorly managed.

“There is a higher expectation from the younger generation about the work environment. Managers need to create good working environments geared to retention, think about hours and days off as well as career progression. In New Zealand they offer share milking opportunities, some high fliers here could be offered equity and profit share schemes to retain them. Training of managers and staff at all levels is important,” he added.

He also called on colleges to think about where the shortages were in agriculture so courses could be targeted as well as farms to offer ‘taster sessions’ for people keen to have a go at dairy farming.

“As an industry we have got to tackle this from different angles as there is no silver bullet solution. We have lots of things to offer, but we need to get better at marketing them and be brave enough to make some changes going forwards” he said.