Having a skilled and capable team of staff onfarm is crucial to running a successful dairying business, Mangakino’s Kate Robinson writes.

It was about a week until Christmas. We’d had more than 100mm of rain in the last month and the temperature was a balmy 26C. Our average pasture cover was 2300kg drymatter (DM)/ha and our production was up 12% YTD.

The cherry on the top was that we still had a full team of staff. Not the same staff we had back in August, but staff nonetheless.

All going well, everyone got a break over the Christmas and New Year period, including us!

Our longest serving staff member of six months is on a working holiday from Scotland, but with our help is keen to apply for her work visa.

She has an agricultural degree from Edinburgh University and wrote her dissertation on mastitis in Scottish dairy herds (perhaps a topic for my next column).

While she is still reasonably green to our industry in terms of practice, she is bright, hard-working and eager to learn.

She’s even taken on the job of treasurer at our local Young Farmers club and has found herself a good Kiwi bloke!

We then have three others on working holiday visas from the United Kingdom, a Kiwi couple, and our neighbours’ 15-yearold son as our relief milker.

It is an interesting mix of personalities but for now, it works. While not all will stay long term or want to progress in the industry, the cows are being fed, milked (albeit at a less than optimal pace) and Chris is having some much-needed time out of the shed.

He’s spent time teaching our team about grazing management and each pair has been given their own herd to manage under his guidance.

Chris is getting other jobs ticked off his list and has the flexibility to spend more time with us as a family. What a difference it is making to his mood, demeanour and physical wellbeing. I think he’s even put on a few kilos.

We’ve learnt a lot about people management this year and together we are doing our best to look after our team and make them feel valued, but not at the expense of our business. Sometimes that means putting any issues to one side and offering them help. What are their goals and aspirations? What issues are they struggling with in their lives that might be affecting their performance and behaviour at work?

We are certainly not counsellors or life coaches, but we’d like to think we could help mentor our staff to be the best they can be. At the end of the day it will be for our benefit too.

It’s not ideal when you continuously have staff coming and going. It comes back to the whole concept of ‘brand’ and how as a farming business we want to be perceived by our peers, our industry and prospective employees as a good place to work.

It is becoming increasingly difficult to recruit the right people. We have been lucky in the past with our recruitment and have found a good mix of personalities and skills to suit our business. But now we need to change our approach as our talent pool shrinks and more effort is needed to train inexperienced staff onfarm.

Having a skilled and capable team of staff onfarm is crucial to running a successful dairying business. The efforts of our staff also play a big part in preserving our personal mental health and well-being.

So with that in mind, we have the staff roster sorted and are prepping our new caravan and looking forward to 10 days at the beach. Until then, we just have to cross our fingers that our team avoids any illness, injury or major life crisis.