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Stackyard News Nov 06

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    Hidden Cost of Family Labour on Farm

ON a family farm, everybody chips in and helps when there’s work to be done. But just how much is that labour worth?


family farm

For the first time, the beef and sheep industries have come together to identify a representative cost for unpaid family labour on a standardised basis across Great Britain. The figure of £11.18 an hour is the result.

The project was co-ordinated by the Meat and Livestock Commission (MLC) and funded by the English Beef and Lamb Executive (EBLEX), Hybu Cig Cymru/Meat Promotion Wales (HCC) and Quality Meat Scotland (QMS), with involvement from industry organisations across the country.

MLC Policy Advisor Stephen Rossides said: “This is a vital piece of work in the market-led, post-subsidy world in which our farmers now operate, and it provides a 2006 benchmark for the industry which can be adjusted to account for inflation and other factors in the future.

“The study revealed that while different farms used different amounts of family labour, however much was used it was still a hidden cost.

“For our farming industry to be competitive and have a sustainable future these hidden costs must be quantified and recovered in what is paid at the farm gate.”

The survey showed some 60 per cent of farmer time was in manual or semi-skilled tasks, with the remainder on management or skilled tasks. On average, farmers only took between seven and eight days holiday a year.

A copy of the survey report ‘Identifying the Costs of Unpaid Family Labour on Cattle and Sheep Farms’ is available to download from

The survey itself was of 318 beef and sheep farmers and was carried out by Promar International. An independent human resources specialist then conducted the comparative analysis where the set of skills needed to run an efficient farm was compared with comparable jobs in other industries and corresponding salary levels identified. To arrive at a total, additional on-costs such as national Insurance and pension provisions should be added.

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