Saturday, May 11, 2013

Dairy Farm Staff And The Shocking Rate Of Employee Turnover

In this video I continue to discuss dairy farm staffing issues. I reference three reports into dairy farm employment.

The first is a report by Dairy NZ called Smarter Not Harder, Improving Labour Productivity in the Primary Sector

The second is a report written by Gillian Searle in 2002 called The Reality of a Career in the Dairy Industry, An Employee’s Perspective

These two reports found that:
  • 50% of dairy staff have been in their current job less than 1 year
  • The average length of service for a dairy farm employee is less than 1 year
  • 1/3 of dairy staff leave the industry every year!

The third report written by Richard Kyte's "A different approach to staffing in the dairy industry" attempts to show that increasing staff numbers actually increased his farms productivity and profitability.


Well, gidday. Glen Herud here again and I am going to carry on talking about dairy farm staff. Last time I said that only a small percentage of New Zealand population are prepared to work on a dairy farm simply because of the long hours involved. 

Today I want to talk about a report that was released by Dairy NZ in 2009 I think, called “Farming Smarter Not Harder.” They had some interesting figures.  

  • They said that 50% of staff had been in their current job less than one year.  
  • The average length of service, so that's the average time people stay with an employer was less than one year. 
  • 1/3 of dairy staff leave the industry every year.

These figures are also backed up by a report written by Gillian Searle way back in 2002, and she found that 59% of staff that she surveyed had been in their current job less than six months. 
These are figures from the dairy industry. These aren't figures from an anti-dairy group. These are their own figures. This shows a horrendous amount of staff turn-over. I can't even imagine trying to run a business where the majority of your staff aren't there for a full year. There is no continuity or anything.  So, these figures surprised me quite a bit. 

Average Staff Turnover in NZ is 20%. NZ Dairy Turnover 40% 

Now, take a look at this graph. This is from the “Working Smarter Not Harder” report.  If you look at the bottom line there that's the New Zealand average around 15 to 20%. This is for staff turn-over.  The blue line at the top is the staff turn-over for the New Zealand dairy industry. As you can see, it fluctuates wildly from down 25% up to 40%, and it's exactly the same every single year.

If look there, September seems to be the time where everything peaks and it's no surprise to me that September is right at the end of calving after people have worked for two months, doing 60-70 hour weeks; they leave.  

750 Cow farm has 4 staff

If we look at what it looks like at a current dairy farm, if you've got 750 cows here in Canterbury. I've said last time that you have about one staff member to 180 cows. So that equals four staff.  Another way of looking at it is one staff member to 75,000 KGs of milk solids. If you have 750 cows doing 75,000 KGs of milk solids that equals four staff. That equals 300,000 KGs divided by 75,000 equal four staff. Essentially that is three employees and one boss. 

So what does that actually look like actually on the farm? 

I am assuming we've got a 60 bale rotary with automatic cup removers and centre pivot irrigation.  Two staff are going to be required to milk and they'll start at 4 am. They go 5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12pm, 1, 2, 3, 4. They'll go through to 5p.m. 

They will have lunch at one and breakfast at eight for an hour.  So that's an 11 hour day. Essentially, one person is always going to be off because they'll have their rostered day off. Depending on what the roster is, it depends what part of the week you have a full complement of staff, but generally speaking you're only going to have two staff plus the boss. Maybe the boss starts at seven and this will probably rotate around. But anyway the third person starts at seven and they'll go right through to five p.m.  So, basically they've got to milk twice a day and they've got to do other jobs.  

750 cows & 4 staff is fine, as long as nothing goes wrong

So having three people on the farm with maybe a relief milker helping out, that sort of works when everything is going well, when the weather is dry, when nothing is broken, where everything just goes according to plan. But as soon as something happens, like what if one of these guys here gets sick? All of a sudden that puts pressure on everyone else. Or if they just don't turn up which is often the case. As we've just seen, the massive staff turn-over rates, you can see that people are leaving all the time within the dairy industry. When someone leaves and you've got this staffing level, it puts pressure on everyone else. Everyone else is already working hard. They are already doing 11 hours a day, and if someone leaves all of a sudden that just puts a heck of a lot more pressure on them.  

Richard Kyte, "A Different Approach To Staffing In The Dairy Industry"

So, I want to talk to you about this report.  Richard Kyte, he was a sharemilker in Southland and now works for the Dairy NZ and he's also a consultant. He wrote this report called, ”A Different Approach to Staffing in the Dairy Industry.” His introduction says, "I believe that the New Zealand dairy industry is being compromised by understaffing on farms especially larger units of 600 cows or more. This has become a significantly greater problem in the last ten years and specifically on the South Island with larger farms." 

He goes on to say, "As the dairy industry grows, to maintain this growth it must attract and retain people within the industry. To do this, the dairy industry must compete with other industries"

And that's what I was saying last week, dairy is competing with other industries. He goes on and he references Rupert Tipples from Lincoln University and Rupert says that 64% of dairy staff work 50 hours plus.  That's compared to 17% of the general population who work 50 hours plus.  

Richard also talks about Peter Sheehan who is a gen Y specialist. You should Google him. He's got some videos out there. He basically made the comment, "If the dairy industry thought 12 days on, two days off was a good roster it needed to get real. As five days on, two days off was the benchmark." He went on to say, “He's extremely surprised that dairy workers even accepted this.”  Richard goes on to say. “If five days on and two days off is the benchmark then 40 to 45 hour week is also a benchmark the industry should look for.". This comment is interesting. "The drive to reduce hours to date has been mainly from professionals looking in at the industry not from farmers themselves." Ain't that the truth!  

Richard added staff which cost $50,000, but increased turnover by $91,000. $41,000 more profit

So, the gist of what Richard was saying was that he went on and he decided he's going to spend an extra $50,000 dollars. When he was sharemilking on a 600 cow farm, he added an extra labor unit which cost him $50,000 dollars.  As a result of that, he had more time to manage his pasture, so he used the pasture plus system. He had less culls, less lame cows, less mastitis, and as a result of that he brought in an extra $91,000 dollars in extra income and savings. So $95,000 minus $50,000 equals $41,000. So he's still ahead by $41,000 which is about a 80% return. So he spent 50 grand to make an extra 41 grand profit. He spent more money to make more money. 

This is the whole thing, I think the level of staffing we've currently got is a false economy.  I think people think that four staff working on a 750 cow farm is the standard, it’s the benchmark.  But I think that you are losing money in all other aspects of your dairy industry. 

So, the interesting thing about Richard's farm is that he has a staff turn-over rate of two and a half years. So that means that his staff stays with him on average two and a half years and they move on basically because they want to progress in the industry, not because they want to leave dairying.  

So next time I am going to talk about how I would run a 750 cow farm and how I propose to pay for it.

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