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Agricultural livestock

Traditionally, the agricultural industry comprised of small, mixed farming units consisting of both livestock and crop production. The industry has since moved to large arable units specialising in one or two areas of production. The agricultural livestock industry includes the farming of: cows; sheep; dairy; pigs; poultry and eggs; plus other livestock and related agricultural contracting. Many farms also produce fodder crops. Others combine livestock production with arable or horticultural crops.

Over the last decade major concerns regarding the environment, the global economy and subsidised over-production have led to changes in the structure of agricultural businesses and their production activity.

To improve finances, some companies have increased the size of their farms and streamlined their workforces. Other agricultural businesses are diversifying into bio-fuel crops or non-farming areas to maximise income. Farmers’ Markets are increasing, helping to revitalise town centres and stimulate demand for products.

Key statistics:

  • There are approximately 315,300 people working in the industry.
  • There are approximately 94,000 agricultural livestock businesses, of which:
    • 33% are in cattle
    • 60% are in sheep and lambs
    • 2% are in pigs
    • 4% are in poultry
    • 27,000 are mixed farms which combine the farming of one or more of the livestock within other activities
  • 98% of businesses employ less than 10 staff.
  • 81% of the workforce is male.
  • 41% of the workforce is 50 years or more.
  • The average age of key decision makers on farms is 55 years, of which 50% do not have a successor in place.
  • 83% of the workforce is employed full-time.
  • 56% of the workforce is self-employed.
  • 59% of the workforce has a level 2 or above qualification.

Jobs in the industry include:

  • Beef and dairy jobs – assistant stockperson, technical advisor/consultant, assistant farm manager/grieve, beef contract rearer, herdsperson, beef technician, calf rearer, contact milker
  • Poultry jobs – assistant farm manager, hatchery stockperson, catcher, driver, egg collector, trainee breeder, broiler, farm manager
  • Pigs jobs – basic stockperson, contract breeder, contract finisher, farm secretary, fieldsperson (breed), section head (farrowing), skilled stockperson
  • Sheep jobs – assistant shepherd, lambing assistant, sheep shearer, sheep technician

Entry requirements for this industry vary depending on the job role. Some jobs require no formal qualifications. However, relevant qualifications and experience can be an advantage, especially for higher paid job roles. Technical/specialist roles may require specific qualifications and/or experience, but some employers may invest in training a suitable individual. Volunteering or taking seasonal/temporary work can improve employment opportunities. There are good opportunities for those wishing to change career.

There are concerns about the ageing workforce as a large number of people employed in this area are approaching, or have reached, retirement age, and there are not enough new entrants to the industry or experienced employees to replace them.

Drivers of change in employment are:

  • Labour supply – There are difficulties in recruiting and a high proportion of the workforce are expected to retire over the next 10 years. Migrant workers have provided a short-term solution.
  • Government Policy – The sector as a whole has experienced high levels of government subsidy, but it is moving towards a more market based approach.
  • Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) – Implementation of the CAP reforms requires greater environmental well-being and management skills to ensure compliance with regulations.
  • Food security – There is a focus on the UK importing less food in response to rising food prices and concerns about the security of food supply.
  • Legislation – There are increases in legislation relating to health and safety and reducing the environmental impact of the industry.
  • Economic conditions – Demand for food is non-cyclical and the industry has been able to weather the recession easier than other parts of the economy. Some premium ranges are proving successful when marketed correctly (e.g. at consumers staying in instead of going out).
  • Diversification – Farm diversification into non-farming activities, such as accommodation, retail and recreation, and into novel and niche products to develop higher returns is a growing trend.
  • Climate change – This are increasing requirements to improve sustainability skills to manage climate change, increase accountability, to protect surrounding landscapes, scarce water supplies and also to support biodiversity.
  • Energy and fuel security – There is a need for businesses to minimise energy consumption, maximise energy efficiency and protect natural resources.

Modern farming is a skilled operation that requires technical proficiency, business acumen and environmental awareness. The current skill needs in the industry are:

  • Environmental Management
  • Literacy, Numeracy and Communication
  • Technical
  • Computing
  • Business skills – linked to the high proportion of self-employed workers

National and regional data:

  • Wales – There are an estimated 53,552 employees in the regional workforce, in around 13,093 businesses.
  • South West – There are an estimated 53,280 employees in the regional workforce, in around 16,717 businesses.
  • Northern Ireland – There are an estimated 45,456 employees in the regional workforce, in around 15,137 businesses.
  • Scotland – There are an estimated 43,650 employees in the regional workforce, in around 12,352 businesses.
  • North West – There are an estimated 27,942 employees in the regional workforce, in around 8,988 businesses.
  • West Midlands – There are an estimated 24,565 employees in the regional workforce, in around 7,734 businesses.
  • Yorkshire and the Humber – There are an estimated 18,879 employees in the regional workforce, in around 5,923 businesses.
  • London and the South East – There are an estimated 18,643 employees in the regional workforce, in around 5,077 businesses in the South East and 128 in London.
  • East Midlands – There are an estimated 13,976 employees in the regional workforce, in around 4,394 businesses.
  • East of England – There are an estimated 8,453 employees in the regional workforce, in around 2,484 businesses.
  • North East – There are an estimated 7,283 employees in the regional workforce, in around 2,348 businesses.

Pay scales in this industry are variable, so the following only provides an indication of the average annual salary paid to some full-time positions:

  • Managers and Proprietors in Agriculture and Services £33,650
  • Farm Managers £26,525
  • Skilled Agricultural Trades £16,816
  • Farmers £18,427
  • Agricultural Machinery Drivers £22,123
  • Farm Workers £16,637

Further information on salaries can be found on the Defra website.

Source: Lantra AACS LMI report 2010