Imported workers a boon to dairy farmers

TYRENDARRA dairy farmer Bruce Knowles is a strong advocate for addressing skills shortages in the regional dairy industry by bringing in migrants.

Tyrendarra dairy farmers Martin Knowles (left) and Bruce Knowles with Filipino Skilled Migration Program workers Lloyd Gragasin and Leo Caculitan.

Tyrendarra dairy farmers Martin Knowles (left) and Bruce Knowles with Filipino Skilled Migration Program workers Lloyd Gragasin and Leo Caculitan.

Mr Knowles employs three Filipinos among his staff of eight permanents plus a few casuals on his 1200-cow dairy farm at Tyrendarra.

He sought dairy industry staff from overseas because there was a shortage of local workers with pasture management and animal health skills as well as general farming experience.

“We wanted people who could do more than milk cows,” Mr Knowles said.

He initially worked through a migration agent to attract Filipinos Lloyd Gragasin and Julius Gancena about four years ago and has recently employed a third, Leo Caculitan.

Phil Hoggan from the Great South Coast Skilled Migration Program helped both Mr Gragasin and Mr Gancena gain permanent residency in Australia after they gained work with Mr Knowles.

The Filipinos are among more than 250 people the program has helped settle in the south-west during the past six years.

The program will wind up this month with the end of local and state government funding but Warrnambool City Council is to include a part-time migration support role in its economic development division.

Mr Knowles said his Filipino employees had an excellent work ethic and did “a bit of everything” on the farm.

Employing the migrants had given the farm a stable workforce and him the confidence that it had the ability to operate efficiently.

The Filipinos had not only helped boost the farm’s productivity but had also lifted the work ethic of the entire workforce, he said.

Mr Knowles said he was disappointed the program would end this month because it had made an important contribution to the region’s economy. 

Employing the Filipinos had not taken jobs from locals but had enabled the farm to get skilled long-term staff, a big improvement on the previous situation where it was “regurgitating” unsatisfactory workers from other farms, he said,

Mr Knowles said the process to get the Filipinos “on board” had been a lengthy one and a more simple process would be appreciated.

One of the three Filipinos, Mr Gragasin, 31, completed a degree in agricultural science, majoring in animal science, in the Philippines and worked on a huge dairy in Saudi Arabia and in New Zealand before coming to Tyrendarra.

He is the pasture manager on Mr Knowles’ farm and said he was enjoying the work because it was developing his career.

“The wages are good.

“The economy is good.

“I have a good boss and good farm systems.”

His favourable work situation prompted him to bring his wife and two young children to Tyrendarra in 2011.

He has also spread the word among his fellow expatriates working in the international dairy industry about the good work prospects in the south-west dairy industry and a number have found work in Timboon.

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