Farms in Hawke's Bay are at risk of staff fatigue as they struggle with a shortage of specialist skilled workers, says Hawke's Bay Federated Farmers president.
This follows the decision of the Productivity Commission to hold an inquiry into our current immigration settings.
The inquiry will sit alongside existing changes planned by Immigration, including the implementation of reforms to temporary work visas and a review of the Skilled Migrant Category visa.
Federated Farmers Hawke's Bay president Jim Galloway said the closure of the border because of Covid-19 has seen roles typically filled by specialist skilled workers, relegated to inexperienced staff.
"Trying to get people to come work on our dairy farms is already hard. It's rural, you have to have a licence, people are reluctant to move. Contractors have had to make changes to how they work," Galloway said.
"Some of the heavy machinery contractors have had problems with not being able to get people in, so we get a situation where we have inexperienced staff potentially breaking machinery or existing staff having to work harder because of the shortage, resulting in staff fatigue."
He said farms in the region were also short of sheep pregnancy scanners, a specialist job, which could have a financial and economic impact in the long run.
"It's a specialist job, we get people coming from overseas, getting enough scanners is critical," he said.
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"Pregnancy scanning, to determine litter size, is important to understand the potential of the lambing season and to efficiently manage the ewe flock. If we don't have enough scanners we could underfeed or overfeed.
"With underfeeding the ewe might not have enough milk and it could result in lamb death, which could have a big economic impact.
"With overfeeding ewes could get cast- stuck on their backs. Once on their backs they cannot right themselves and could die if not turned. This year, with no rain and less grass farmers might have to sell even more ewes."
Other than a shortage of skilled specialist workers, farms in the region were doing "marginally better" compared to the same time last year, Galloway said.
"A lot of people have hay and silage in their sheds this year, but they might have to de-stock if we don't get rain soon. This time last year we were running low on supplements," he said.
"We've had a couple of days of frost, which means less grass growth. We require above-average rain in the vicinity of 20 to 50mls over a few days to encourage grass growth."
He said the Ministry for Primary Industries had feed lines and farmers should get in touch if they were short on feed.