Management crisis expected for Canada’s dairy, poultry, and egg farms

The single biggest labour challenge for the dairy, poultry and egg commodities will be finding skilled and experienced farm managers.
Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council
Tuesday, 24 January 2017
By Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council
Jan. 24, 2017 - The single biggest labour challenge for the dairy, poultry and egg commodities will be finding skilled and experienced farm managers, including owner-operators. For these commodities, management and ownership jobs account for almost two-thirds of the current workforce, and between now and 2025, they will account for the majority of the jobs going unfilled due to a lack of domestic workers.
 
The Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council (CAHRC) has completed a three-year study and released the Dairy: Labour Market Forecast to 2025 and Poultry and Egg: Labour Market Forecast to 2025. These studies examine two of Canada’s most significant agricultural industries, which together account for 55,500 jobs, or 15 per cent of the total agricultural workforce.
 
Through consolidation, automation and other efficiencies, the dairy-cattle industry has shed more than a third of its workers since 2009, employing 39,900 as of 2014. However, despite this reduction in the size of the workforce, an additional 3,400 jobs went unfilled due to a lack of available domestic workers. This labour shortfall cost an estimated $71 million in lost sales.
 
While the labour demand is expected to continue to decline as a result of a stable market for the industry’s products, the labour supply is also predicted to shrink. As a result, the industry will continue to experience a labour shortage, with manager and owner-operator jobs at the greatest risk of going unfilled. Of the 1,100 jobs forecasted to go unfilled by 2025, 90 per cent will be jobs at the manager and owner-operator level, which will result in a skills shortage as well as a labour shortage.
 
For the poultry and egg industry, the research included farm operations engaged in breeding, hatching and raising poultry for meat or egg production, including chickens, turkeys, ducks, geese, pheasants, partridges and pigeons. Similar to the dairy industry, a leveling of demand for poultry and egg production and improved industry productivity will limit the demand for labour, while a shrinking supply of domestic labour will widen the industry labour gap. In 2014, 15,600 people were employed in the poultry and egg industry and an additional 250 jobs went unfilled due to a lack of domestic labour. These shortages cost the industry an estimated $6 million in lost sales. By 2025, 15,900 workers will be required, and 1,100 jobs are at risk of going unfilled. As with the dairy-cattle industry, manager and owner-operator jobs will be the most difficult to fill.
 
Both industries will be significantly impacted by retirement, with nearly one-third of the dairy workforce and nearly one-quarter of the poultry and egg workforce expected to retire by 2025. Finding Canadian workers with the right skills and experience is the greatest barrier to recruitment for both industries, despite the fact that they often offer attractive work conditions, including full-time, year-round employment located relatively close to urban centres. Both industries also have voluntary turnover rates that are below the sector average, which means that fewer employees choose to leave their jobs.
 
Unless these industries can find additional sources of labour with the right skills and experience, they will suffer from a critical gap at the managerial and leadership levels that could inhibit their ability to thrive.
 
To address the labour issues identified in the research, CAHRC has developed agriculture-specific human resource (HR) tools designed to support modern farm operations to manage their workforce. CAHRC offers Agri Skills, online and in-person training programs, and the Agri HR Toolkit – an online resource guide and templates to address the HR needs of any business. For agricultural organizations there are customized labour issues briefings that apply the new research to specific commodities and provinces, to explore the labour implications within their specific area.
 
The Dairy: Labour Market Forecast to 2025 and Poultry and Egg: Labour Market Forecast to 2025 reports can be downloaded at http://www.cahrc-ccrha.ca/agriLMI.ca. The study data was validated through industry consultations conducted Canada-wide including: 1034 surveys of employers, workers and industry stakeholders; 80 phone interviews; six focus groups for a total of more than 100 participants; and seven webinars focused on specific commodity groups with 100 participants in total.
 
The LMI research was funded in part by the Government of Canada’s Sectoral Initiatives Program.

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