Tuesday, 04 December 2018 10:55

Investing in staff pays dividends

Written by  Nigel Malthus
Dunsandel dairy farmer Michael Woodward was a finalist in this year’s Primary Industries Good Employer Awards. Rural News Group Dunsandel dairy farmer Michael Woodward was a finalist in this year’s Primary Industries Good Employer Awards. Rural News Group

The ‘big thing’ in employing farm staff is to invest in them, says Dunsandel farmer Michael Woodward.

“We try to grow these people as much as we can, while they’re in our farming group,” he says.

Woodward and his wife Susie were finalists in the inaugural Primary Industries Good Employer Awards, having been nominated in the Agriculture Minister’s Award category. The winners were announced at Parliament last week.

Read: Best primary sector employers announced.

He says the key to being a good employer is “making sure we are one of the vehicles on their journey, and making sure that when they leave the farm they are a better person through being involved in our system”.

The couple are 50:50 sharemilkers on 294ha (effective) milking 1020 cows through a 50-bail rotary. They are also now expanding into a small Angora goat operation on their home block.

They employ six full-time and have run many properties in the past with up to 19 people on the books at one stage.

“So we’ve had a bit of experience employing people on the way through. We found things we were cognisant of when we were employees – things that we liked or didn’t like that our employers did, and we thought we could do better,” said Woodward.

He said he was “really stoked” to be nominated for the award by their DairyNZ consulting officer Natalia Benquet.

“Not to say that we get it right all the time but obviously [Benquet] believed we were doing something good for the industry.”

Woodward, who is also the Federated Farmers North Canterbury dairy chairman and vice-chairman and regional manager of the Dairy Industry Awards, recently became farm operations manager for his farm owners, the Purata Farms group. 

“We’re still 50:50 sharemilking but because we employ the team we get to do it how we want within the wider system.”

Communication with staff is very important, as is making sure no-one was doing “big hours”.

His staff averaged about 45 hours a week through the high workload spring season.

Woodward said keeping an extra half to full labour unit employed gives sickness and holiday cover so the others don’t have to “work their butts off”.

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