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Migrant Milk Men

Dairy farmers relying on migrant labour, survey reveals


A POOR work ethic among Brits and unrealistic expectations about career progression are fuelling an increase in the number of foreign workers employed in the dairy sector.


A survey carried out by the Royal Association of British Dairy Farmers (RABDF) showed one third relied on migrant labour.


The results laid bare the issues many dairy farmers have with their workforce.

Almost 40 per cent of the 250 respondents had encountered staff recruitment issues in the last five years – the reasons commonly given amounted to difficulty in finding quality and skilled workers.


Most employees – 57 per cent, were from Poland, with a significant number from the Baltic States, particularly Latvia along with a range of other countries outside the EU, from the Philippines to New Zealand.


Almost 56 per cent of farmers indicated they expected them to stay for two years or more; very few regarded them as transient or temporary


RABDF policy director Tim Brigstocke said there was no doubt many migrant workers were indispensable on UK dairy farms, however a question mark hung over their future in terms of training and sourcing, together with the on-going issues of intra-community flow of EU residents and the UK remaining within the EU.

Mr Brigstocke said: “If the Central and Eastern Europeans went back to their native countries then dairy farming would be in dire straits as so many farmers are now dependent on this migrant labour force.”


RABDF vice chairman Derrick Davies milks 300 cows in Reading and has employed the same Polish worker for 10 years.


Mr Davies said the work his employee has provided over the years has been ‘outstanding’ and blames the cultural problem in Britain where ‘herdsmen think they should be promoted to farm manager in a year and move on when they’re not’.


“It is a very demanding job and I think people’s expectations are way too high,” said Mr Davies.


“From my experience, people from countries such as Poland are prepared to work harder.”


Mr Brigstocke said migrant workers were happily filling the employment gap in exchange for learning English and earning more money than they would in their home countries.


It is now down to organisations such as RABDF and the agricultural colleges to entice more people into the industry.


“I think to an extent we have been bad at promoting dairying as a high-tech, forward thinking industry and extolling the myths around the sector because it is such a rewarding job,” Mr Brigstocke added

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