Farmer Focus: Recruitment should be more than a quick chat

With January all but over and spring inching closer, we are making lots of plans. On the dairy side this is measuring grass and setting grazing plans.

For the cutting leys and wheat, it is spreading slurry. The first dose is done via umbilical, aiming to reduce soil damage.

We have set some clear targets for the coming months, the main one being high forage quality and utilisation. We made a good start in the autumn with some new leys which grew well.

See also: How research project aims to improve phosphate use on farms

We are also set to improve our fencing and tracks for the grazing land to ensure a good rotation. Silage leys are all about quality, timely cutting and good clamping.

A poor first cut from last year is still having negative impacts now, with more concentrates being fed to make up the shortfall.

About the author

Charlie Cheyney
Arable Farmer Focus writer Charlie Cheyney farms more than 480ha land in Hampshire in partnership with his father. They run a mixed arable and 450-cow dairy enterprise, growing cereal and forage crops on varying soils, from chalk to heavy clay.
Read more articles by Charlie Cheyney

The new year has also meant replacing a member of staff, which has made me think about our recruitment process.

I have been pleasantly surprised by the number of quality people out there wanting to work in agriculture, and I think it remains an industry that people want to be involved in.

How we recruit people has never really been reviewed – a wander round the farm and a chat around the kitchen table is the standard, with the hope that we get a good idea and feel for the candidate.

But there is room for improvement. As the farm is a small team, staff can have massive impacts on our business.

With that in mind, investing more time and effort in our recruitment process seems sensible.

The plan is to start with a standardised format for the interview process, with some standard questions asked of each candidate, followed by some other prepared questions based on the individual.

It’s important to take notes so that when reviewing the candidate we’re not relying on memory alone.

Maybe we should be looking at aptitude tests to understand the personality of the candidates further.

In our small team personality clashes can have a huge impact on staff morale and productivity, and can be a major reason for staff leaving.

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