Gypsy Day

Today is  Gypsy Day which signals a change of job and home for hundreds of dairy farm staff and thousands of cows.

While June 1 is the date that new-season contracts come into effect,  the moving isn’t confined to a single day. It is more Gypsy week or even month as all those managers, share milkers, other dairy staff, their families, household goods, vehicles, machinery and animals move farms.

The peripatetic nature of dairy farm work affects not just the workers and their families but the communities from and to which they move.

Rural communities where sheep, beef or cropping were in the majority used to have relatively stable populations with many families staying on the same farm, or at least in the same district, for generations.

That might not be quite as common now as it used to be but it is still more the norm than in areas where dairying predominates.

Dairying is different from other types of farming as staff regularly move from farm to farm as they advance up the managerial or share milking ladders.

The transient nature of the increased population does make it harder for people to know their neighbours and we have to work harder to retain a sense of community.

However, if  dairy farm workers are more mobile, they are also more numerous.

Dairying boosts the population of farming areas because it is more labour intensive. That is generally positive, bringing more people to support local businesses and organisations and more children for what are often small schools.

That many of them aren’t there for the long-term is due to the nature of the industry which turns many of its workers into Gypsies each June.

2 Responses to Gypsy Day

  1. Neil says:

    Just a pity that what happens doesn’t help create that community that was prevalent in rural areas pre-dairy boom.
    The weakening of the rural community is evident today. Fellowship and friendship have been lost- money is all that counts.
    Schools from one week to the next can have wildly fluctuating rolls.
    That feeling of “home” is absent.


  2. Roger Barton says:

    Neil you are overstating the role changes. A good friend is principal at a medium sized rural school with a dairying catchment and it is only this time of year that the roles can go up or down due to Gypsy Day. I recomend that dairy farm owners advertise for “experienced workers”, they come with kids (you can debate what the experience was?!)
    Sharemilking can be a bit transitory BUT it is a great mechanism for building a career and equity.
    I see students protesting in Auckland…I guess that’s all about “money” too? Not just the domain of dairy industry.


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