Tuesday, 15 September 2020 05:55

Migrant workers set to return

Written by  Sudesh Kissun
Chris Lewis, Federated Farmers says farmers wish the decision was made months ago. Chris Lewis, Federated Farmers says farmers wish the decision was made months ago.

About 50 migrant dairy workers could potentially benefit from the Government’s border exception for work visa holders.

However, Federated Farmers says some farmers who hired locals to replace the migrant workers trapped overseas could be facing a tricky situation.

Federated Farmers vice president Chris Lewis is urging famers to carefully read the wording on contracts.

“Before you start thinking about getting Johnny from overseas to replace Paul who is already employed on your farm, read the wordings on the contracts,” he told Dairy News.

“This could become a complex employment issue for some farmers.

“So, take advice before you run off to the immigration consultant.”

Lewis says “a kind spring” meant that many farmers got through calving with the help of new workers.

 However, he says most locals don’t have the farm work experience that the migrant workers possess.

“Everyone expects a high level of animal welfare and sustainability practices on farm and we need these experienced overseas workers to help farmers meet those expectations.”

Lewis says at the last count about 50 migrant farm workers were trapped overseas. He couldn’t say how many would still have jobs.

Lewis thanked new Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi for his understanding and making changes swiftly.

 “I only wish the last minister had made the decision months ago.”

Faafoi last week announced that visa holders, who must have retained their job or business in New Zealand, plus their partners and dependent children, will be able to apply for this exception from early October when the new category opens.

 “Many of these visa holders and their families have lived in New Zealand for years and have built lives here with the hope and expectation that they would be able to stay longer-term in New Zealand. It is only fair to let these visa holders return given their long-standing and ongoing connections to this country,” says Faafoi.

 “We are keen to give them certainty and welcome them back to New Zealand.”

DairyNZ chief executive Tim Mackle says this is a real breakthrough for migrants who meet the criteria and gives their farm employers certainty to plan for the future.

“We thank the Government for listening to the sector’s calls for these highly skilled people to return. They contribute to the dairy sector’s success, are invaluable for their experience and skills, and are important for training incoming Kiwi staff.”

The visa holders and their families will follow all border control processes and go into quarantine or managed isolation, before re-joining their communities here.

DairyNZ has been working with the Government since the beginning of the Covid-19 lockdown. The Government did provide a six-month extension on the employer-assisted temporary work visas due to expire by the end of 2020, which was also very welcome news for dairy farmers.

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Lely offerings for the future

Dutch robotic specialist Lely launched a new farm management application called Horizon at its recent Future Farm Days 2020.

Designed to connect data from a range of on-farm equipment and suppliers into one management system, it creates a real-time decision-support platform, to make the farmer’s life easier, the herd healthier and the farm more profitable, says Lely.

Developed over a 24-month period, with over 100 test farmers in seven countries, working with 75 engineers, designers, farm management advisors, veterinarians and AI specialists, the new application will eventually replace the current Lely T4C management system. It uses smart algorithms and the cloud to deliver data that is processed into actionable information that is always accessible on any device in a user-friendly way.

Lely claims the Horizon application unburdens farmers from routine decision making and helps them optimise their workloads, using integrated routines based on easily scheduled cow ‘touches’, create logical and more efficient workflows. It is also possible to assign a certain task to an employee and to schedule a time slot for the cow touch, rather than analysing different reports and filtering long lists.

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To ensure full support in the migration to Lely Horizon, existing Lely T4C customers will be personally informed by their Lely Center before the end of 2020.

The migration is planned in a phased approach, from country to country, over the year 2021.

Also launched at the event, Lely Exos is an autonomous concept for harvesting and feeding fresh grass to the herd.

The company suggests that feeding fresh grass makes better use of available roughage, suggesting “fresh” has between 10 and 20% more nutritional value than grass silage, as there are minimal losses typically seen during mowing, tedding, raking, harvesting and feeding.

Lely suggests that feeding fresh grass over an extended season reduces the amount of silage that has to be conserved, reduces the need for concentrates and bought-in feed and increase the margin made on each litre of milk produced.

Based around an all-electric vehicle that mows and feeds, Exos is light weight and uses soil friendly technology, that can be exploited throughout the growing season. Design to work 24/7 as feed requirements change, the system places no constraints on labour or time, while it is also designed to work in tandem with the Lely Vector automatic feeding systems.

In operation, Exos also collects field data as it goes about its job, giving framers live data on grass supply and lending itself to a further concept of delivering a targeted liquid fertiliser as it passes over a harvested area.

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