21 Jul 2021

Dairy farms face labour squeeze ahead of calving season

From Nine To Noon, 9:08 am on 21 July 2021

Pandemic immigration restrictions and labour shortages are about to collide with the busiest time of the year on dairy farms  - with concerns some workers are being poached to cover the shortfall, while others are working horrendous hours - leading to stress and burnout. Many industries are struggling with a pandemic-induced lack of workers: last week the government tweaked immigration rules for 18,000 workers on essential skills visas to allow them to stay longer.

In the primary sector, the government approved border class exemptions for an additional 200 dairy workers  - 150 farm managers and 50 dairy assistants - who'll be able to bring their families with them. But some in the dairy sector say it's not enough, won't happen in time to help with calving season and has the numbers allocated to those farm roles around the wrong way. Kathryn talks to Southland's Federated Farmers sharemilker chair Jason Herrick, and dairy farmer Bridget McNally, who's just lost a crucial farm manager back his home in the Philippines after he was unable to get his family back into New Zealand.

Calving on coastal dairy farms in Southland is about half way through.

Calving on coastal dairy farms in Southland is about half way through. Photo: RNZ