Making farm staff feel appreciated every day
An award-winning Southland dairy farming couple say prioritising communication, time off and supporting their team are key to retaining staff.
With Farm Worker Appreciation Day being celebrated globally on Saturday, August 6, Dipton farmers Annalize and Stefan du Plessis agree on the importance of making dairy farm staff feel valued.
It’s a challenging time for many dairy teams right now, as a staff shortage sees some farm teams under pressure. In this environment, supporting staff is key to retaining them.
The du Plessis’ recently won the Small Business Recognition Award at the 2022 Primary Industries Good Employer Awards. They employ eight of the 37,000 people who work on New Zealand dairy farms.
The couple agree that looking after and upskilling teams is particularly critical right now, with the challenges of finding and keeping talented people. “I think our biggest job is to train people and to look after them,” says Annalize. “If we train them well and have good systems and equipment to make everything run smoothly, it’s easy for them to do their jobs.
“Flexibility with taking time off is also important. Our team can decide which days they take on the roster, and we try and ensure they have plenty of time off during quieter times,” says Stefan.
The du Plessis’ farm team are a melting-pot of cultures from South Africa, India and New Zealand, and the couple encourage them to take longer breaks to visit family overseas.
Annalize says they have an open-door policy and encourage their staff to talk to them if they have any issues to discuss.
“We also encourage them to join a local sports club or get involved in community activities like Young Farmers. If they’re new to the area we take them along to community activities to meet other people.”
The couple recognise staff birthdays with a day off, a present and a cake, and Annalize often provides staff with warm meals – especially over the busy calving period.
Annalize and Stefan are 50:50 sharemilkers on a property milking 700 cows, and contract milk 630 cows on another local farm.
DairyNZ head of the South Island, Tony Finch, says farm worker appreciation day is a great opportunity for employers to acknowledge the work farm teams undertake.
“We know many farm teams are understaffed, and with the busy calving period underway, it’s a chance to thank staff,” says Tony.
"As Annalize and Stefan exemplify, having good working conditions and team culture across the year is also key to make employees feel appreciated and valued.
“In the current tight labour market, we’re seeing farmers focus even more on how they can retain farm staff and use a range of ways to improve working conditions for farm teams.”
DairyNZ research shows that farm staff value:
More information and advice on managing people can be found in the people section of the website