Supporting new arrivals on the farm

Tai Poutini Polytechnic Agriculture Tutor Bryan Harris

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Winter isn’t usually a season you’d associate with new beginnings. But in the dairy sector June is a time of change, opportunity and challenge, as farm workers shuffle and re-settle around the country in what has become an annual migration.

You might be preparing for the big move yourself or know someone who is. Remember that, as with any time of change, it can be an unsettling and stressful time. Just a bit of patience and a focus on familiarisation can ease the adjustment for both employees and employers, as dairy farmers welcome new staff onto their properties.

Employees – Moving your family, dairy herd, belongings, farm equipment (pretty much your whole life) is mission enough! Then you have to unpack and set up in a new location, learn to get along with new colleagues and the boss, and find your way around a new farm and often a new district. It’s a lot to take on board at one time, and it can be overwhelming and exhausting.

No matter how hard you go, this WILL take time! You may be taking on a larger farm and more
responsibilities, but try not to freak out or take on too much at once. It is better to relax and take it in your stride as you gradually become more familiar with your new location and role.

Relax. Focus on the basics first, and the rest will come to you eventually.

Employers – A focus on bringing new workers up to speed with your farm practices, geography, routines and systems will help to ease the settling-in process. It helps to show them around the property to familiarise them with the farm. Which are the night paddocks and day paddocks and where is the access? How do they operate the water system? Perhaps you have some idiosyncrasies in your operation – show them some tips and tricks so they don’t get overwhelmed and frustrated by their lack of local knowledge!

You may understand the upheaval they are experiencing, having been through it yourself. Keeping that in mind can help you be patient as they get the knack of their new position and all that comes with it. Supporting them in their new role will help you all get along and ensure a happier, safer, more efficient and productive workplace.

As well as spending time settling in your new staff, this is the time to catch up on some general farm maintenance, and to clean out those calf pens, making sure you have working facilities and enough supplies in preparation for calving season. So, there’s plenty to get on with in the winter months!

Keep on top of these tasks and you won’t be running around like a blue-arsed fly when those new calves start to drop!