Severe labour shortages linger amid start of dairy farming season

It's the first day of the new dairy farming season and hundreds of farmers around the country have spent the week packing up and moving.

Leaping out into their new home, the O'Malley family are on their 10th move in 15 years.

And it could be the last after finally buying their first farm. 

"Let's hope so because we're a bit over moving now. Gypsy day, or moving day, can be a bit of a headache," West Coast dairy farmer Christopher O'Malley said.

Even the relentless rain couldn't dampen his mood today, moving onto their own farm is something the couple has dreamed of for 11 years. 

"We lost our way a little bit about seven years ago thinking it was impossible, but then we thought we'd just get back on the horse and hit our goal. And we did it," O'Malley said.

Truckloads of dairy cows are being driven all over the country this week as sharemilkers shift to new farms for the new season that starts on Wednesday.

But some old problems still exist with severe labour shortages. 

"It's heartbreaking what some of these guys are going through, we support as much as we possibly can but there's only so much you can do with the market that is here in New Zealand at the moment," Trinity Employment managing director Cassandra Slumskie said.

So she's spent the past two weeks in Indonesia recruiting farmers to work here.

"We interviewed quite a number, about 60, while we were there and we have 16 exceptional candidates that we'll be looking at bringing over as soon as possible," Slumskie said. 

And with a record milk payout this year, Federated Farmers said wages are up 14 percent.

"It's a good time to be in dairying," Federated Farmers Dairy chairperson Wayne Langford said.  "If you're keen to get out of the city we'd welcome you with open arms."

A sector that is desperate for more workers.

"Spring is coming around quickly and we really need those people on farms to help with calving," Langford said.

Because rain, hail or shine, New Zealand's five million cows will still need milking.