Presenter Helen Carroll with relief milkers Jennifer Matthews and Josh Phelan
A Kilkenny woman's work in Farm Relief Services features on this week's episode of Ear to the Ground, which airs on RTÉ One on Thursday at 8.30pm.
The rapid expansion of Ireland’s dairy industry in the past few years has led to an acute shortage of skilled milkers, Helen Carroll discovers this week. Farm Relief Services, a co-op in conjunction with Teagasc, is recruiting people in the south-east and training them to help out local farmers.
Jennifer Matthews (29) returned to Kilkenny from the UK to help care for her father and was seeking part-time work. She was among the first to graduate from the course, training in Kilkenny with farmer James O' Brien, milking 120 cows.
“There is a lot of flexibility, I can work whenever it suits me and have milked on a number of different farms since qualifying," she says.
Jennifer with one of the herd
"Before the course I found cows a little intimidating - they are so big compared to sheep I was used to. But the training has taught me that they are very docile if handled well."
Teagasc estimates that there will be 5,000 extra trained staff needed to milk the country's cows over the next ten years.
The episode on Thursday evening also features segments on Coolattin Wood in Wicklow, and on energy in agriculture.