Farmer Focus: 4 tips for caring for seasonal staff

Operating a spring calving dairy farm in Ireland means seasonal help is a key part of the busy period.

The most important element is attitude. Experience or background makes no difference to me; if attitude is in the right place, anything can be learned.

In return for this, we need to treat the person well. There are a few tricks we have found to getting this right.

About the author

Gillian O’Sullivan
Livestock Farmer Focus writer Gillian O’Sullivan milks 100 crossbred cows once-a-day with her husband Neil and father Michael on Ireland’s South-East coast. They operate a seasonal calving, grass-based system with milk supplied to Tirlán.
Read more articles by Gillian O’Sullivan

See also: How to reduce mastitis ahead of spring calving

1. Time

Hours are long, so be mindful of finish times and don’t start a two-person task close to the end of the day.

Having said that, we ask for a degree of flexibility within an hour of the end of the day, and if this is used over the week, we return it with an early finish on Friday.

2. Learning

Find out what they are interested in and create opportunities through training, farm walks or seminars.

My husband Neil and I are qualified vets and often people want to learn about animal health, so we prioritise setting time for that during the day. Bringing safety into every aspect of learning is also vital.

3. What is important to them?

Outside of the farm, where do people’s interests lie? Is it family, sport, food, music?

Help them find outlets for their interests, especially if they are not from the area, as it demonstrates that you care and want them to enjoy their stay both on and off the farm.

4. Comfort

We’re fortunate to have space to host people who wish to stay for the calving period.

A double ensuite room is a comfortable retreat following a long day of physical work, but other comforts matter too. Internet connection, a TV, favourite foods – simple, small things go a long way to make people feel valued.

This year we have been blessed with a French chap who has come on the Erasmus study programme.

He had two requests: could he bring his partner and his dog? As a result, we have a wonderful couple who are both willing to work on the farm and are a pleasure to have in the house.

Many hands make light work at the busiest time of the year.