According to Missouri-based dairy farmer Niall Murphy, he tries to make his own job redundant every two years by handing over responsibility to employees.

Speaking as part of a panel on the topic of building a high-performing farm team, Murphy said that attitude and honesty are the most important aspects of an employee, as everything else can be trained and developed.

One of the things he aims to do is to continually hand over responsibility for higher-level jobs to employees, which frees up more time for him, but which also allows the employees to develop.

“Some farmers employ people just to do the jobs that they don’t want to do themselves and never let them do any of the jobs that they like doing, which are the more enjoyable aspects of farming.

Disillusioned

"It’s easy to see why people will be disillusioned in such circumstances," he says.

Murphy, who owns three farms in the US and who spends 70% of his time in Ireland, says that he doesn’t use titles when it comes to the people working on the farm.

“I know lots of farms in the US where each person is numbered from one to five or six depending on how long they’ve been working on the farm and their experience, but I’d often wonder how the number five person feels about that.

Dairy Day 2023 organised by the Irish Journal at at Páirc Uí Chaoimh in Co Cork. \ Philip Doyle

"It’s not something we do. We have a manager on every farm and after that there are no titles,” he says.

He says he avoids formal meetings with employees and instead prefers to take the team out for lunch on a regular basis, during which any issues on farm will emerge and its easier to identify if someone is off-form then too, he says.

Cost of wages

Colin Donnery from FRS said that the cost of wages has increased over the last few years and that this is a cost that dairy farmers are having to absorb if they are to attract people on to farms.

Páidí Kelly said that discussion groups are a key part of the farmer’s weaponry and a well-functioning group will be a sounding board for the farmer, offering advice and guidance.

He said some groups have lost their way a bit, whether due to changes in facilitator or group members.

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Kelly suggested that each group should have a chair and vice-chair and two ordinary members on a steering group.