Tuesday, 14 November 2017 10:55

Farming people the biggest concern

Written by  Pam Tipa
Dairy Women's Network chief executive Zelda de Villiers. Dairy Women's Network chief executive Zelda de Villiers.

If you think milk price or weather are dairy farmers’ biggest concerns, think again – it’s people.

That is what a survey by Dairy Women's Network (DWN) has revealed. Chief executive Zelda de Villiers says the results were “quite surprising” and provided a clearer picture about what is important to dairy farmers. ‘What is Important’ was the theme of the recent DWN annual meeting where the survey results were presented.

“When farmers were asked about the difficulties they faced on farm, issues like financial, weather or milk price, none of those things made the top deck of challenges,” de Villiers told Dairy News.

“The first group of challenges were people: having quality staff, onfarm communication, managing staff, time to work on their business and not in their business and management.

“People were very much the biggest challenges: finding the right staff, managing staff, keeping staff and ensuring they are managed in a professional way.”

DWN ran an online survey of 250 people then did face-to-face interviews with a range of dairy women and men in various regions and career stages. Trained researchers did the in-depth interviews with 15 participants onfarm, surveying owners, sharemilkers, contractors and employees.

After people, the next group of concerns was public perception and portrayal. “As a group they feel very much in the limelight right now. And it is not a pleasant place to be,” de Villiers says.

The next group of concerns was about more compliance and the administration and paperwork that entails.

“Those were the challenges. Then when we asked them why they are farming they said animals and being outside were number-one.

“Number-two and three were freedom of choice, freedom of their destiny,” including being boss of their own destiny, building their own business and family/life balance,” de Villiers says.

“And an absolute passion for the dairy industry is why they farm.”

Farmers living and working onfarm and valuing the animals, the outdoors and being masters of their own destiny, de Villiers says you can understand why the current spotlight on farming “becomes really personal”.


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