British & Irish dairy farmers urged to apply for Australian visas

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Due to skills shortages in Australia British and Irish dairy farmers are especially in demand by Australian immigration as reported by David McCullough of the Scottish Farmer website. Dairy farming is listed on the country's Consolidated Sponsored Occupations List; the government is urging British and Irish dairy farmers to apply for Australian temporary skilled immigration 457 visas.

Charlie McElhone of Dairy Australia – the national services body for the country's dairy farmers - stated: "Australian, British and Irish dairy systems have many similarities, all being mainly pasture based (animals kept in fields)." McElhone acknowledged that there was already 'a strong British and Irish flavour within the Australian dairy industry, while UK and Irish labour is also commonplace across the sector.'

In Australia, there's a large contingent of British and Irish working holiday makers employed across the dairy farming industry. Many of these workers go onto to stay in Australia on longer-term employment related visas such as the 457 visa.

According to industry commentators, there's a growing need for British and Irish dairy farmers to apply for Australian skilled immigration visas to fill skilled and managerial roles across the industry sector. Many farmers down-under are using the Australian skilled immigration system to recruit personnel from overseas to fill vacancies.

McElhone said: "In particular, farmers are looking to recruit workers with a formal qualification in agriculture and experience of working on larger farms."

Australian dairy farmer shortage a massive problem

The farming sector in Australia is suffering as a result of labour shortages. Currently, 6,300 dairy farms exist across the country; due to increasing growth in this sector they have become more reliant on the Australian skilled immigration system to find workers.

Surveys undertaken by Dairy Australia suggest that each dairy farm has between two and five members of staff, with the total number currently employed in the dairy farming industry being about 25,000. 80 per cent of dairy farmers struggle to find personnel with the required skills needed to help on their farms.

On an Australian skilled immigration temporary 457 visa, dairy farmers with a minimum of five years' experience can earn a salary of $53,900 per year. The 457 visa also allows a visa holder to work in Australia for up to four years for the sponsoring farm.

Claire Miller, Dairy Australia's policy strategy manager, said: "The dairy industry will continue to be reliant upon the Australian skilled immigration system in order to recruit from overseas and meet labour demands in the short to medium term. Changes to the 457 visa criteria are also necessary to meet local needs."

"The changes will mean that a senior farm hand, with over five years of experience, or a Certificate III in Agriculture (or equivalent) with three years of experience, is eligible for a 457 visa," Miller added.

Backpackers not a long-term solution to skills shortage

In recent years, farmers have found workers from the backpacking community. However, Miller said that they're not really a 'long-term solution for Australia's farming industry. After all, by the time a farmer has them fully-trained, they're ready to move on.'

The 457 Australian temporary work skilled immigration visa application does involve a substantial amount of paperwork for farmers. However, they are valid for up to four years. It may also be possible to extend the visa beyond this time period.

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