Dairy program tackles skilled labour shortage


Dairy farmers are tackling the critical shortage of skilled labour at all levels in the industry with a program designed to support and inspire the next generation of farmers.

Run by Fonterra’s farmer representative body, the Fonterra Australia Suppliers’ Council, the Proud to be a Dairy Farmer program aims to address the challenge of retaining talented people, by showcasing the numerous career pathways available to young dairy workers.

Following a successful pilot in May this year which was widely acclaimed by industry leaders and attendees, applications are now open for a second program which will be held in March 2022.

All farm employees in Victoria and Tasmania who want to take the next step in their dairy career, regardless of the processor your farm supplies, are welcome to apply.

Fonterra Australia Suppliers’ Council Chair Alan Davenport said a lack of skilled workers is a major issue confronting an industry on the cusp of a new period of growth.

“Confidence among dairy farmers is at historically high levels, thanks to a combination of good conditions and a strong milk price, however we are facing one of our biggest challenges with a lack of skilled workers.

“Our dairy industry currently employs more than 23,000 people, making dairy Australia’s fourth largest rural sector employer, but farmers have consistently struggled to find workers, making it difficult for farms to grow – or in some cases to even survive,” said Alan.

Last year, nearly half of Australia’s dairy farms undertook recruitment activities, with 70 per cent of these farms experiencing difficulty filling positions, according to the 2020 National Dairy Farmer Survey.

Alan said the skills shortage, and the ability to retain existing employees in the industry, was the inspiration behind the Proud to be a Dairy Farmer program.

“We have worked in tandem with Fonterra to create a program to help attract, support and retain people in our industry.

“By helping them to take the next step in their career and celebrating the success of those in the industry, we hope to turn the tide on this challenge,” he said.

Cohuna farm worker Jai Heap, who was a member of the inaugural group, said dairy workers starting out in their career should jump at the chance to take part. 

“I am so grateful to be involved in the initial program,” said Jai.

“It was a great opportunity to meet new people from around the industry and discuss new ideas on being a better farmer and seeing the opportunities available to me.

“The program opened my eyes to stepping up and seeing the skills I needed to become a better farm manager,” he said.

The 2022 program will be held from 1 to 3 March and will include guest speakers on a range of topics including types of farm ownership, industry structures, the power of mentoring and the importance of looking after your mental health. It will also include a formal dinner with industry leaders and a day dedicated to farm and factory visits.

Interested farm employees can find more information and an application form on the Fonterra Australia Suppliers’ Council website – www.supplierscouncil.com.au. Applications close on 15 December 2021.