cow and child

Fostering young talent

By Kevin Wilson

Dairy farm consultant Kevin Wilson writes about the need to do more to attract young people into the dairy farm industry and retain talent.

Farming tends to go in cycles. Milk prices and weather patterns are the obvious. However, throughout my time in the dairy industry, there is one thing that has never changed, and that is the difficulty of attracting and retaining quality farm staff.

Dairy farming is a complex business which requires a great level of competence in order to operate at high standards. Therefore, as employers, we need to invest time to ensure our staff are continually upskilling to improve their knowledge and technical skills. But just as important is the necessity for managers and owners to upskill in staff management and leadership. This has to be a win-win for the business and the industry.

More secondary schools are offering agriculture and agribusiness within the education curriculum, which will attract more quality young people into the industry and this is to be encouraged. These young people entering our industry have great potential, but due to the nature of dairy farming, often become disillusioned due to job demands, long hours, and lack of leadership and guidance.

It is up to business owners and senior farm staff to guide young people through these challenging periods. It is never easy navigating over-enthusiastic, under-skilled staff to a point where their expectations meet their knowledge and skillsets.

Due to an ongoing shortage of skilled labour in the industry, this will be one of the biggest challenges facing the industry moving forward. It is inevitable enthusiastic and ambitious young people go through this phase, where their knowledge and skills lag behind their irrepressible confidence, but with patience and strong leadership, it can result in mutually beneficial outcomes for all involved. More importantly, we can retain these people for the future of the industry.

For the greater good of the industry, let’s break the cycle. As farm leaders, we need to take a greater responsibility of fostering young people through the challenges of dairy farming, show empathy and leadership, and upskill ourselves and our staff to ensure we can attract and retain the best young people into our great industry.