Farmers CAN reduce working hours

Patrick Bolger

| Cattle & Dairy

| Mar 7, 2015

Cows eating

Anyone involved in running a business will be familiar with the hard work and long hours required, but there are only so many hours in a day, so all options should be explored when trying to minimise working hours: clever tricks, clever people, and clever technology!

Farmers are no different to other business owners, but yet they endure some of the highest weekly working hours in the world.
Why is that, and what can they do about it?

One of the reasons for the long working hours has been the abolition of milk quotas. This has put even more pressure on labour resources as dairy farmers expand their herds, as shown by a survey recently published by the Irish Examiner (Source:

The survey was completed by 12 dairy discussion groups representing 500 farmers, and found that the total daily workload (incuding weekends) was over 9 hours for the farmer alone, excluding family help and employed labour.

The survey also asked farmers what they would deem an acceptable working time per week, and
the average answer was 59 hours. With a current average of 64 hours, this leaves a gap of 5 hours. How can farmers bridge that gap and save 5 hours a week, or more?

Some have taken simple but effective steps, for example by starting the evening milking one hour earlier. However this “clever trick” may not be practical for every farmer, and other tasks will have to be squeezed into fewer hours before the evening milking starts.

Another option is to employ more labour on the farm, but this is often seen as a costly option, and it can be difficult to find the right people. However, it may not be as costly or as hard as you think! FRS Network (Farm Relief Services) has been providing farm labour for over 35 years, and is a trusted partner for tens of thousands of farmers. With 18 locations around the country, there is sure to be one close to every farm, so why not give them a call and see if they can help put a cost-effective solution in place to save a few hours a week. To contact your nearest FRS office, visit

Last, but not least, “clever technology” is the newest way for farmers to save time on the farm. A perfect example is Herdwatch, an award-winning farming app launched in February 2014, which can save farmers up to 4 hours a week on paperwork such as calf registrations and remedies recording, for less than 30c a day.

For every 60 calves, a dairy or suckler farmer can expect to
save 10 hours using Herdwatch, and this doesn’t even take into account cost savings (40 Euro in stamps alone) or time saved by reducing errors and not having to keep handwritten notes.

Farmers can also expect to save more time by recording remedies directly into Herdwatch on their smartphone, on the go, even with no internet connection. Once the information is recorded, the farm is fully compliant with remedies recording requirements from the Dept of Agriculture and Bord Bia.

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