Almost one third of dairy farmers would consider leaving the industry due to a lack of labour, a new survey by the Royal Association of British Dairy Farmers (RABDF) has revealed.
It highlighted 80 per cent of farmer respondents were worried about staff recruitment, with 63 per cent struggling to recruit in the last five years, up from 51 per cent in 2016.
Twenty-eight per cent cited staff left due to unsociable working hours, despite 77 per cent of employers making changes on farm to make the workplace more attractive.
The survey also reiterated the industry’s reliance on foreign labour, with 42 per cent employing foreign workers in the last five years.
But Brexit has led to growing concerns over access restrictions to any new foreign workers.
RABDF managing director Matt Knight said despite repeated calls to the Government to get dairy workers included on the Migration Advisory Committee’s Shortage Occupation List, or included as a skilled worker, there had been no progress and urged them to reconsider the status of dairy workers.
“We need access to these skilled workers, especially in the short-term until longer-term solutions to the dairy labour issue are found,” Mr Knight said.
The survey found 54 per cent of dairy farm employees were aged between 16-34, with 75 per cent of employees under 49.
More than half of survey respondents employed an apprentice and 87 per cent said they would consider taking one on.
Mr Knight added: “There is a lot of work to do around the image of dairy farming to attract new entrants and workers into the industry.
"The long and unsocial hours seem to be the main limiting factors when it comes to recruiting staff on dairy farms.
“We are looking at solutions including working with land-based colleges to promote dairy specific courses and working with youth groups to promote dairy farming as a career to non-farmers for example.
“However, it is also important we consider alternative working practices to make working hours more sociable to attract more workers on to farms."