Are you looking for some extra help this lambing season? In this article Barry Crackett from agricultural brush manufacturer Brushtec shares his advice for farmers looking to attract and retain seasonal lambing workers.
With lambing season already underway, sheep farmers are no doubt feeling the pressure of this particularly hectic period. It's an incredibly busy time for people in the industry, as a staggering 16 million ewes give birth every year in the UK (Countryfile).
There are so many things to do during the season, including monitoring the sheep, assisting with delivery, and caring for newborn lambs. Plus, many sheep farmers also choose to gather data to help them learn more about the health of their flock.
As the period is so intense, it can be incredibly draining, both mentally and physically. So, to lighten the load, it's a good idea to recruit seasonal workers to help. But how exactly do you go about finding and keeping new staff? In this article I'll give you some of the best tips for attracting and retaining seasonal lambing workers to make this period run as smoothly as possible.
Advertise the jobs well
In order to attract the right workers, you need to know where to find them first. To attract people to the role who already have some interest and experience in agriculture, there are a number of ways this can be done, including placing a job advert on Agricultural and Farming Jobs. And, if other local sheep farmers have used seasonal lambing workers in the past, they may have some contacts they can put you in touch with so you can recruit people directly this way.
If you don't mind employing some workers without extensive experience, you may also want to consider advertising the role to agricultural or veterinary students. Some older students may already have some experience in lambing. And even if they don't, what they lack in experience they are likely to make up in passion and thirst for knowledge. While they will likely make hard-working and dedicated employees, they might need a lot of guidance at first, so it's best to not solely rely on students and employ at least one lambing worker with a good amount of experience in the role.
Ensure the role is as flexible as possible
It can sometimes be difficult to attract seasonal lambing workers as the role requires working during unsociable hours. So, to keep your employees happy and motivated, try to be as flexible as possible with the role. Many think of flexible working as simply having the option to work from home, which of course seasonal lambing workers can't do. However, you can be a flexible employer in a number of other ways, including by adjusting work hours when needed and being mindful of childcare considerations (Farm Progress).
Of course, being fully flexible isn't possible in farm work all the time, but employees will appreciate the efforts you make and be glad that this is something their employer has considered.
Provide good incentives and rewards
Any sheep farmer knows that despite being very rewarding, the lambing process can be incredibly challenging both physically and mentally. So, to attract seasonal lambing staff and show them just how important their role is, it's a good idea to provide them with incentives and rewards. As well as showing the workers just how much you care, this will boost the morale of the team and help them keep up the good work in the difficult periods.
There are a number of incentives and rewards you can offer staff. You may want to reward staff who have gone the extra mile with a pay bonus or vouchers to encourage them to keep up the good work. Make sure to give lambing employees a fair wage, as we know just how challenging the job can be. And lambing involves working at all hours of the day which can take its toll, so one way to motivate staff is to give them extra pay for working nights and weekends. You could also have shorter shifts during this time, so no one has to stay awake all night.
And with long shifts and unsociable working hours, the idea of slogging back and forth between work and home may be daunting for some employees, especially if you're based in a very rural area. So, one great incentive to offer is accommodation for workers if you have the space. This isn't something that they'll have to take up every night but knowing that it's there will no doubt give them peace of mind.
Create a positive work environment
It's important for every workplace to have a positive work environment, but it's especially important for farms. The hours can be long, and the work can be challenging, so creating a supportive and positive workplace is important for both your employees and you. Encourage workers to come to you if they have any issues, concerns, or even just for a chat if they want to.
As the period can be so busy and stressful, it's important to be mindful of everyone's mental health this season. Encourage your employees to be as open as possible and remind them that they can take mental health days when needed. And if you ever feel that a worker appears out of sorts, have a chat with them and ask them how they're doing. Although you'll undoubtedly be busy with a variety of other jobs, the health and safety of your staff should be among your top priorities.
The lambing process can be incredibly rewarding, but a lot of long hours and hard work goes into it too. If you're looking for a few extra pairs of hands this lambing season, use the tips above to attract and retain hardworking staff during this busy period.