8 December 2000

Contractors in an Irish stew

AGRICULTURAL contractors operating in Ireland are having difficulty hiring full and part-time staff, according to a recent Teagasc survey.

Conducted among contractors based in the south-east of the country, the survey reveals that availability of better paid jobs with shorter working hours is now a more attractive option than driving agricultural machines.

Average take-home wages of machinery operators is about £5/hour with more experienced employees receiving up to £7/hour.

The survey also finds that there is now an increasing level of co-operation between contractors to counteract these labour shortages and ensure more efficient use of expensive machines.

One-third of the contractors surveyed reported they were sharing machines during busy periods.

Another new trend is for farmers to provide their own tractors, machines and labour to contractors with more than half of contractors using farmer owned machinery and labour.

In terms of costs, machinery spend now accounts for 22% of overall costs in farming. Figures from the Teagasc National Farm Survey show that expenditure by Irelands farmers on machinery was £550m in 1998.