Are farm staff an asset or a cost?

David McCord from Farm Solutions pays his regular appraisal visit regarding   Vienna White's employment at Greenville Farm Ardstraw.  Photography - David Scott
David McCord from Farm Solutions pays his regular appraisal visit regarding Vienna White's employment at Greenville Farm Ardstraw. Photography - David Scott

When farmers employ staff, whether for seasonal work or on a permanent basis there is a cost involved – the important aspect is to ensure that the service provided is fully justified and is money well spent. In addition the staff employed should enjoy the challenge of the job and be fully involved in ensuring the success of the business.

Sourcing and maintaining good staff is a huge challenge, as the farmer needs resources such as time and finance to research the employment market and may not always have the skills to fully assess potential candidates. Employing the wrong candidate can hinder progress in addition to wasting hard earned money.

Vienna White highlights  some of the management records that she compiles for the dairy enterprise for David McCord, Farm Solutions. Photography- David scott.

Vienna White highlights some of the management records that she compiles for the dairy enterprise for David McCord, Farm Solutions. Photography- David scott.

Jason Mitchell, who farms at Greenville Road, Ardstraw in Co.Tyrone has found a very successful solution. He contacted Farm Solutions, who are farm staffing specialists and asked them for assistance. Their representative, David McCord visited the farm to assess in detail the job requirements. Finding someone to assist with looking after a 700 cow dairy herd is quite a challenge but David explained: “Farm Solutions has almost 40 years experience in placing staff in a wide range of farm enterprises in GB and Ireland. Due to demand, we are now offering our recruitment service in Northern Ireland.”

The result is that Vienna White, a native of Letterkenny in Co.Donegal has been working at Greenville Farm since last June. Vienna comes from a dairy farm but with five brothers there was not much opportunity for farming at home. She attended Gurteen College in Tipperary and has worked on a number of farms since finishing her education. She commented: “I wanted to find a farm where I felt part of the business and could be fully involved in planning and decision making. I want to be an asset to the business – not just a cost.”

Vienna is part of the team at Greenville who manage the 700 cow herd. Their duties include herd health, calving, training heifers to use the eight robots on farm, computer records, farm compliance, veterinary needs, medicine storage, farm records etc. Her hours of work are from 6.30am to 4.00pm on weekdays with a 4.00am start at weekends. She works a rota of three days on and two off. Jason is not in favour of long stints of a week or 10 days in succession.

Jason added: “Staff that have favourable working conditions and are fully involved in the business are an asset and their cost is fully justified. They help me see the business from a different perspective which assists with future planning.”

Vienna White added: “Many farmers now realise that if they involve staff fully in the business then they get interest, loyalty and a professional service. In addition farmers now want a social life and time with their family which also leads to better mental health.”

David McCord added: “Farmers for years have been investing in all other areas of their business apart from sourcing and retaining staff. It has always been looked at as a “cost” and not as an “asset”. Fewer people are coming into the industry to work on farms so it is important to make your farm business as attractive as possible to any future employees and more importantly retaining them.

“Farm Solutions help farmers by advertising their business across a range of platforms in order to attract the most suitable applicants for their farm. We interview all potential applicants and put forward those that we think would best suit their business needs. The farmer then has the choice of which applicant they feel would be best suited for the role.

“Staff members are paid by Farm Solutions which includes all applicable statutory contributions in accordance with labour law, thus eliminating the need for a farmer to operate their own payroll system.

“We look after tax, pensions etc, and issue payslips for the employee to assist with mortgages, bank loans etc. if required. We keep in regular contact with the farm and do appraisals every three months to ensure a positive productive relationship. We also assist with further training.”

For further information contact David on 07787 404714. The web page is www.farm-solutions.co.uk