Dr Neil Moss says attracting and retaining people in agriculture starts with being employers of choice

“Dairy business owners need to identify what it takes to become an employer of choice. There needs to be an increased realisation that they are competing not only against dairy but other sectors such as mining or even other more urban based sectors. Some of the shortcomings of the dairy workplace need to be acknowledged, worked around and perhaps modified or compensated for. Improved employer training as well as workplace training for employees is crucial to the success of the industry as it evolves and increasingly needs to look to those who are less familiar with agriculture to join its forces.”

Dr Neil Moss is a director of Scibus and a long-time consultant to the dairy industry. In this second instalment of our Crafting Careers in Agriculture series he shares with us his views on the role of industry in attracting the future workforce.

Australia’s food and fibre sector is in a highly competitive workplace for staff and Neil believes there is a role for industry to swing the competition in the favour of agriculture.

“To compete in this marketplace you need to offer jobs that are financially attractive, have potential for progression, and are interesting; certainly not jobs that are “the bottom of dung pile” to only be considered by those that can’t be employed elsewhere. A dairying career is actually very complex and requires planning and attention to detail. It is a technically challenging job that brings a wonderful balance of working with people, animals, technology and the environment.”

There is a general trend for dairy enterprises to become larger in the future and with this increase in size comes the potential for new jobs, such as a herd manager or fodder production specialists. These jobs may be very suitable and attractive for those who may have both practical skills and tertiary qualifications to support the high levels of animal husbandry, data analysis, reporting and nutrition skills required. However, employment of people in what was dominantly a family-run operation sees new challenges.

“Many successful farms have evolved with family labour and not a lot of off-farm or employed labour. As a result the people who move from sole operators to employers haven’t always been trained, or had the opportunity, to develop the skills and understanding of what being an employer in a modern agricultural enterprise really is. There is a real need for this to be addressed. Dairy business owners need to identify what it takes to become an employer of choice. There needs to be an increased realisation that they are competing not only against dairy but other sectors such as mining or even other more urban based sectors. Some of the shortcomings of the dairy workplace need to be acknowledged, worked around and perhaps modified or compensated for. Improved employer training as well as workplace training for employees is crucial to the success of the industry as it evolves and increasingly needs to look to those who are less familiar with agriculture to join its forces.”

Alongside employer education Neil believes there is a role for industry research groups to conduct workplace forecasting as precision agriculture and measuring and monitoring become more important to the business of dairy.

When asked to nominate a future job within the dairy industry Neil returns to the herd manager as an example.

“The salary can be anywhere between $60-150,000 per annum depending on scale and complexity of enterprise, and may include other benefits such as accommodation. It’s a complicated interesting career with potential for competitive financial rewards, career progression, training within the business and opportunities for international and domestic travel. The potential for taking equity or moving into your own enterprise may be opened up as well. Within the right businesses these can be fantastic career opportunities that should be on the radar of anyone interested in agriculture.”

and how did Neil find his way into a career in agriculture?

Neil was born in Sydney and when he was ten years old his parents brought the general store at Dalgety in southern NSW, and not long after a 350-acre property where they ran cows and calves. Neil’s high school holidays were spent working on local farms, which, in part, fired his determination to study veterinary science at university, which included a PhD in dairy cattle reproduction. Neil has a Diploma of Human Resource Management from NCDEA. He is currently a director of Scibus and is their senior consultant to the dairy and beef industries

Connect with Neil on LinkedIn