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Milking once a day - you life back?


Milking once a day - can it give you back your life?
By Janette Busch

Results from a pilot study undertaken by researchers from Farm Management at Lincoln University indicate that once-a-day milking has the potential to impact positively on the quality of life of both employers and employees on farms using once-a-day milking

Responses from farmers and farm employees and their families who were using once-a-day milking indicated that there were benefits to all those involved. Employers spoke about staff turnover, absenteeism, sick leave and accidents dropping dramatically and the employees and their families spoke about having shorter or more acceptable working hours, enhancement of family life and the prospect of a more balanced life style (“getting a life”) were attractive features of once-a-day milking.

Project Leader, Dr Rupert Tipples said that if once-a-day milking becomes more widely accepted than it currently is, it is possible that New Zealand may become a world leader and this may help sustain the industry’s comparative advantage in marketing and trade negotiations.

In New Zealand, once-a-day milking has been used previously in times of drought but in recent years the numbers of dairy farmers converting to once-a-day milking (OAD) has increased considerably.

In carrying out this preliminary investigation Dr Rupert Tipples and Mrs Nona Verwoerd used both traditional (questionnaires, case studies and focus groups) and non-traditional (transactional analysis and drawing pictures) research techniques to find out whether once-a-day milking may hold the possibility of dairy farming becoming socially sustainable in the future.

They used three groups of dairy farmers: new converters to OAD, those undecided about, and those opposed to, OAD as well as their employees and their families.
“As is usual in a pilot study the numbers of respondents involved were quite small but we knew it was important to be able to get some baseline data so we could then design a much larger project that will give some really robust data that the dairy industry will be able to use to recommend changes that will benefit the dairy industry as a whole,” said Dr Tipples.

“The problem for the dairy industry is that while it is a major part of the New Zealand economy, earning 53% of New Zealand’s total merchandise export value, the numbers of people working in the industry has decreased over recent years and the industry is increasingly finding itself lurching from one employment crisis to another,” said Dr Tipples.

“Previously, dairy farming has provided an employment opportunity for those strongly financially motivated. The ‘dairy farming ladder’ has allowed the farm worker/milker to advance through share farming to eventual property ownership. That prospect today appears less and less attractive to entrants to the industry and financially more and more unrealistic.”

“More research is needed into the employment and human issues connected with OAD milking,” said Dr Tipples, “because it is hardly likely to resolve all the employment, recruitment and retention problems facing a modern dairy farmer but our preliminary work shows that there are very real and significant benefits reported by farmers who have taken the plunge and converted to OAD. “

Dr Tipples has recently presented this research at the Pacific Employment Relations Association conference in Australia where it was well received.


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