‘Silver lining’ in new job opportunities

Karl Dean. Photo: Supplied
Karl Dean. Photo: Supplied
In uncertain times, North Canterbury’s dairy farmers are in a fortunate position, Karl Dean says.

The Federated Farmers North Canterbury dairy chairman said there were “silver linings” for dairy farmers amid the Covid-19 crisis.

The biggest headache for farmers, as they began drying off cows, was a six-week delay finding space at the freezing works, and a looming shortage of migrant workers for the new season might require a rethink.

Mr Dean said the looming migrant worker shortage could be offset by New Zealanders, made redundant by the economic impacts of the Covid-19 crisis, looking for new careers, provided farmers were flexible.

“The main issues at the moment are workers on visas who went home and now can’t come back and now, all of a sudden, it might become a bit too expensive to bring in workers from the Philippines and other countries.

“But I think there will be a small silver lining, with New Zealanders coming across to our industry who wouldn’t have considered dairying before, but they come over and they’re excellent workers.

“Farmers will need to be flexible in staffing arrangements.

‘‘If someone has a mortgage in town, they can’t just move to the farm, so we may need to change our shifts around to suit.”

While many jobs on a dairy farm were specialised, most people could learn “how to put cups on a cow” and those who were motivated could move up quickly in the industry.

“There will be a lot of changes with different demographics and it will cause farmers to rethink.

“Farmers often think if you’ve got to drive half an hour to go to work each day, why would you? But for someone in town that’s nothing.”

While the Covid-19 lockdown had made little difference on the farm, Mr Dean said conditions were “still drier than people would like”.

The lack of capacity of freezing works was putting pressure on feed supplies with winter approaching, as farmers carried dried off cows for longer. Isolation was also a big issue for farmers.

“For farmers who are normally socially isolated anyway, those social interactions they do have are completely gone.

“You can still get the supplies you need, but it will be a while until farmers can go to their local FarmSource supplier for a coffee and a chat.”


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