RABDF is one of the many UK farm livestock organisations that form part of the UK Farm Livestock Brexit group. Originally started by the Livestock Auctioneers Association this group has grown in importance in that Defra now see it as the main channel in which they can communicate thoughts and ideas to the whole sector.
At the last meeting Robert Goodwill, the Farming Minister within Defra attended, and Tim Brigstocke, RABDF's policy director was able to update him on the continuing issues affecting labour on many dairy farms – an area the RABDF have done a lot of research and lobbying on.
Previous work carried out by the RABDF concluded that EU-labour was making a significant contribution to dairy farms with farmers clearly concerned that Brexit will have a major impact on their future sourcing of skilled EU-labour. It is clear that dairy farms are becoming more reliant on overseas labour with 56% of respondents (2016) employing staff from outside the UK in the last five years compared with just 32% in 2014.
Our current position; that we relayed to the Minister, is that the main issue still not being appreciated by the government is the scale of concern for permanent staff and definition of skills and skilled workers required on dairy farms. Our research shows that this gap simply won’t be filled by British workers, when we surveyed 2,000 UK adults only 4% were willing to consider job roles on a dairy farm. The main reasons for not considering a job in the sector were the unsocial hours, rural location and working with machinery and animals.
It is therefore imperative that government take on board the fact that people working on dairy farms have an enormous skill base ranging from basic manual work to complex computer farm management and feeding matters.
RABDF will be following up the progress from this meeting with the Minister over the next couple of months to try and drive forward a solution to the potential labour problem facing many dairy farms across the UK.