DairyNZ wants people who have lost jobs due to Covid-19 know there is plenty of work on dairy farms, especially in Waikato, Canterbury, Otago and Southland – and that they might well earn more than in their previous role.

With the national unemployment rate forecast to rise sharply due to Covid-19, DairyNZ is encouraging people to consider work on dairy farms with a new Go Dairy campaign that "also includes entry level training to help their transition to farming" said DairyNZ's chief executive Dr Tim Mackle.

"It's a big opportunity," Mackle told The Country Early Edition's Rowena Duncum.

"Obviously we acknowledge the tough time people are going through, particularly in the tourism and hospitality sectors. But at the same time there is an opportunity here."

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Mackle said as many as 1000 jobs were immediately up for grabs on dairy farms "and there will be more."

Listen below:

"As the new season gets under way on June 1, even more positions are likely to become available," says Dr Mackle. "For people who're looking for work and like the idea of caring for animals and the environment, there are lots of jobs – and career progression opportunities."

"Securing great talent is crucial for farming and we're keen to get good people into dairy."

Dr Tim Mackle. Photo / Supplied
Dr Tim Mackle. Photo / Supplied

People interested in knowing more about working on dairy farms, where the jobs are and the introductory training can visit godairy.co.nz/career-changers where they can register their interest.

While the Go Dairy career changers campaign, which is supported by Federated Farmers, aims to create awareness of the job opportunities, there is a big emphasis on ensuring new staff understand what is involved in farm life.

"We want a win-win situation – for new dairy farming employees to be happy and fulfilled in their new jobs and hopefully new careers, and for farm bosses to have great talent working for them," Dr Mackle said.

"Things have changed and we need to adapt to them."

He said dairy also paid one of the highest average wages of all the primary sectors.

"There are excellent career progression opportunities in dairy and the jobs aren't all remote either - often they're an easy drive from town."

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He confirmed DairyNZ was among those in the rural sector working with Government to ensure the 4500 migrant staff already living in New Zealand and working in farm teams could have existing visas extended.

"Even with all the current migrant dairy staff being retained, there is still the shortfall of at least 1000 employees for the new dairy season that starts in just three weeks," said Dr Mackle.

"Indeed, ensuring farm employers can keep all their experienced staff, including these migrant staff, will assist them in training new recruits coming in from other sectors, and successfully settling them into their new farming lives."

For those looking at a career change, Mackle had a positive message: "Often I hear from farmers the number one ingredient is attitude...There's some great stories and videos ([on the Go Dairy website] about people who have made that switch [into dairy farming], so it kinda makes it real for people."

Also in today's interview: Mackle pays tribute to newly crowned 2020 Fonterra Dairy Woman of the Year Ash-Leigh Campbell.

Key facts for Go Dairy career changers
Pay: The annual pay scale in dairy farming averages $42,000 for farm assistants starting out in farming careers, rising to $50,000-$55,000 for herd and assistant manager positions, and $70,000 upwards for farm managers.

Where are the jobs? Dairy farm jobs are available in all of the country's major dairying regions, in particular Waikato, Canterbury, Otago and Southland.

Training: DairyNZ is finalising the details of the Go Dairy 'farm ready' course for career changers who are serious about a farming career. The course will provide information about life and work on a farm and teach the basics of animal handling and vehicle safety.

Once on farm, Go Dairy career changers will be supported on the job by the farm employer and colleagues. As many farm staff already do, they can choose to go on to learn more and obtain formal qualifications through courses provided by Primary ITOs, Dairy Training, regional polytechnics and other training providers.