RABDF 2016 EU-labour survey findings

The Royal Association of British Dairy Farmers carried out an independent survey* in 2016 which concluded that EU-labour was making a significant contribution to dairy farms and that farmers are clearly concerned that Brexit will have a major impact on their future sourcing of skilled EU-labour.

The findings mirror those of a similar unique RABDF survey carried out amongst dairy farmers in 2014. The most marked change was the fact 56% of respondents had employed staff from outside the UK in the last five years compared with just 32% in 2014. 

•    51% of respondents had experienced difficulty recruiting staff within the last five years.

•    56% of respondents had employed staff from outside the UK in the last five years.

•    93% of dairy farmers said that overall, the use of EU-labour had been a successful option for their farm. 

•    50% of these workers were highly skilled or mainly highly skilled in dairy ie they were able to do most of the jobs on a dairy farm. 

•    85% came from Poland, 23% from Romania.

•    83% of respondents indicated willingness to work was the reason why they employed EU-labour.

•    63% of respondents said they employed EU-labour due to insufficient UK staff available.

•    60% of respondents indicated they expected their EU staff to remain for three or more years. Very few regarded them as transient or temporary.

•    Brexit and its impact on dairy units: 62% of respondents were concerned it would affect their ability to employ EU-labour; 42% anticipated that retaining existing migrant labour would be an issue; 58% were concerned about their unit’s financial viability due to labour shortage. 

The RABDF EU-labour survey 2016 featured 160 producers of which 67% had more than 200 cows


For information

RABDF 2014 EU-labour survey findings
The Association carried out an independent survey** in 2014 which concluded that EU-labour was making a significant contribution to the dairy sector

•    40% of the respondents had encountered staff recruitment issues in the last five years, the reasons commonly given amounted to difficulty in finding quality, skilled workers. 

•    32% of the respondents employed labour from outside the UK 

•    93% agreed it had been a very successful option. 

•    57% of employees were from Poland, with a significant number from the Baltic States, in particular Latvia. 

•    62% of farmers employing EU-labour said there was insufficient UK-labour available, however there were also question marks about value for money whilst some had special attributes – RABDF is aware that many Central and Eastern Europe citizens are highly qualified and therefore provide excellent head herdsmen.

•    94% of respondents said willingness to work took priority for when seeking a new member of staff followed by being a team player, and having technical and appropriate communication skills.

•    56% of farmers indicated they expected their EU-labour force to stay for two years or more; very few regarded them as transient or temporary.

•    60% of the EU-labour had been recruited directly, very often through word of mouth. On certain farms it had almost become part of a family tradition for the out-going person to find a new person from their home country. 

•    30% of the EU-labour was sourced from a specialist dairy labour agency, whilst very few were sourced via the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Scheme (SAWS) which ceased to operate in 2013.
•    Recruiting direct was rated as easy by 58% of farmers, whilst 37% felt it was satisfactory but would consider alternatives. 

The RABDF EU-labour survey 2014 featured 250 producers of which 52% had more 200 cows.