Dairy farmers hung out to dry as season peak hits

May 11 2021

DairyNZ says the decision not to approve 500 skilled dairy workers to come into the country will put farmers under intense pressure, as they head into the new dairy season in June.

DairyNZ chief executive Dr Tim Mackle says having the government application declined is disappointing and essentially lets farmers down, right as the sector heads into its peak period.

“We have real concerns for this season, including animal welfare, farmers working longer hours, increased stress and mental wellbeing issues,” says Dr Mackle.

“DairyNZ continues to work hard to resolve long-term workforce issues. However, we have an immediate workforce crisis this season, due to Covid border closures. This decision is a blow to the sector.

“Right now, there are also staff on farms who need residency applications processed. So in the interim, we urge the Government to urgently fast-track applications for those migrant workers on dairy farms who want to become New Zealanders, and already qualify to meet residency criteria.

“Our migrant staff are extremely valued by the sector. We are concerned that the delays are forcing them to look to other countries who can offer a more certain future.”

The recent joint DairyNZ-Federated Farmers labour survey emphasised that farmers are short staffed, with 49 percent of respondents stating they are currently short staffed and 58 percent of them experiencing increased stress levels.

“Our staff are our biggest asset, so we need to look after them,” says Dr Mackle. “As a sector, we are striving to offer competitive packages and value the importance of a great workplace culture.

“We also need to continue attracting and employing more capable New Zealanders who want to work in dairy. We have a great story to tell, including lifestyle and opportunities.”

Dairy sector employment:

  • Dairy farming has the highest average salary amongst agricultural industries.
  • Dairy processing has the highest average salary level of New Zealand’s food manufacturing industries.
  • Just under 80 percent of dairy sector wages are earned in rural areas.
  • Dairy farming is a top 10 employer in half of New Zealand regions.

Farmers who are challenged by staff shortages are encouraged to reach out and talk to others, or contact the Rural Employee Support Hub on 0800 694 121.

Media inquiries:

Vanessa Feaver

Senior Media Manager

Phone 027 836 6295


Ali Tocker

Senior Media Specialist

Phone 027 364 7532


Photo usage: If you require high-resolution versions of photos featured in this article, please contact info@dairynz.co.nz