DAIRY FARMING

IT'S A CAREER AND LIFESTYLE

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A dairy farming career is everything from caring for animals to learning new skills, enhancing the environment, and earning good money with career progression opportunities.

More than 12,000 farm businesses employ over 30,000 people on farm so there are many career opportunities. 

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Farm Assistant

Salary: $42,000

Your first step into farming is likely to be as a Farm Assistant where you learn the ropes and gain the skills needed to advance your career.

Once you have one- or two-years’ experience, you can become a Herd Manager or Assistant Manager.

Duties might include

Feeding

You’ll be helping to feed the cows, calves and any other stock on the farm. You may be involved with allocating the feed and driving machinery to feed it out and checking to make sure the animals have had enough to eat.

Milk harvesting

The engine room of any dairy farm and where you can get your hands dirty. You’ll be putting cups on cows and learning how the milk gets from the cows to the vat for collection.

Animal health

Keeping an eye on the cows will be a crucial part of your role. You will work with your manager to identify and help any animals with problems while also getting involved with things like reproduction, herd testing and preventative measures such as drenching calves.

Environmental management

This may involve shifting the effluent spreader and along with your manager keeping an eye on the system to make sure it’s working well. It can also involve spraying, fencing and planting trees and plants along waterways to help improve the farm’s environmental impact.

Education and training

Check out education, training and qualifications in the section below.

* Average Farm Assistant salary, Farming Salaries 2018, Remuneration Summary Report 2017/18, Federated Farmers.

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Herd Manager

Salary: $49,000

As Herd Manager you may have some staff working under you or be responsible for completing key areas of work.

You should only require limited supervision for most tasks on farm, and you'll require one to two years' farm experience. While no management experience is required, the desire to support and supervise staff is critical to success.

Duties might include

Herd Managers take responsibility for some day–to-day operations, running the dairy shed and other routine tasks.

Feeding

You may be responsible for the day-to-day tasks of feeding one herd which could involve allocating feed, putting up fences and feeding supplement. You will generally be working with your manager to optimise the amount of feed the cows consume.

Milk harvesting

You’ll be milking the cows and quite likely be expected to run the milking routine. You may be expected to assist and manage junior or relief staff.

Animal health

Keeping an eye on the cows will be a crucial part of your role. You will work with your manager to identify and help any animals with problems while getting involved with things like reproduction, herd testing and preventative measures such as drenching calves.

Environmental management

This may involve shifting the effluent spreader and, along with your manager, keeping an eye on the system to ensure it’s working well. It can also involve fencing and planting trees and plants along waterways to help improve the farm’s environmental impact.

Career story

21-year-old Matt Dawson has big career goals. He went farming at 16-years old and studies while working through Primary ITO

Education and training

Check out education, training and qualifications in the section below.

* Average Herd Manager salary, Farming Salaries 2018, Remuneration Summary Report 2017/18, Federated Farmers.

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Assistant Manager

Salary: $55,000

Assistant Managers assist with the day-to-day management activities linked to farm production. You will implement farm policies and plans including day-to-day planning and staff management in the absence of the Farm Manager or Farm Owner.

Assistant Managers ideally require one to two years' experience working as a Herd Manager and a minimum of three to four years on farm.

Duties might include

Assistant Managers work under a Manager or Farm Owner but may be required to step in and run the farm with minimal direction for extended periods of time.

Farm productivity

Completing documentation required on farm, with minimal support. Ensuring all farm policies are implemented. Gathering information on farm to influence feeding decisions i.e. farm walks and grass cover. Knowledge and understanding of production targets. Carrying out a feed budget and working out when supplementary feed is needed. Also understanding if cows are being fed the correct amount by analysing post grazing residuals.

Milk harvesting

You will have overall responsibility for all milking activities, troubleshooting, rectifying problems and knowing when further advice or help is required. Keeping an eye on the tanker docket. Helping to shape decisions regarding drying off through discussions with Farm Manager.

Animals 

Implementing the preventative animal health programme for common health issues including mastitis, milk fever, lameness, grass staggers and ketosis. Monitoring and reporting cow condition including body scoring and discussing their management. Implementing the mating plan, including the management of non-cycling cows and synchronising cows. Managing calving in farm manager’s absence. Diagnosing, treating and knowing when to seek further assistance for animal health problems. Undertaking good animal welfare practice.

Business

Planning farm tasks ahead of time and knowing what preparation and supplies are needed. Be aware of monthly cash flows. Monitoring operational key performance indicators (KPI’s) and reporting results.

Natural resources

Working within consent guidelines and proactively taking steps to ensure there is no breach of consents. Knowing and managing factors which impact on waterways.

People

Training new staff. Allocating jobs within the team. Running the farm in the farm manager’s absence. Responsible for the wellbeing, wellness and health and safety of staff.

Education and training

Check out education, training and qualifications in the section below.

* Average Assistant Manager salary, Farming Salaries 2017, Remuneration Summary Report 2016/17, Federated Farmers.

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Farm Manager

Salary: $69,000

Farm Managers are responsible for meeting farm goals, including all aspects of production, stock, environmental and staff management. You are likely to be involved in the budgeting process, but will not set the budget. Ideally you will have a minimum of five years’ experience working on farm and will have gained an overview of all the required elements needed for farm management. You will also have experience managing staff.

Duties might include

Farm managers are responsible for the day-to-day management of the farm.

Farm productivity

Monitoring seasonal weather events and assessing how they will affect the farm system (e.g. pasture growth rates and pasture damage). Balancing production and cost to meet farm policy. Planning and implementing pasture improvement programme including deciding which paddocks need re-grassing. Implementing cropping policy on farm.

Milking

Organise herd tests as per farm policy. Monitoring records and/or ensuring only quality information goes to the operations manager.

Animals

Putting together breeding programmes that maximise genetic gain. Coordinating with breeding company and vet regarding mating plan requirements. Setting and monitoring the calving and calf rearing plan to meet farm policy. Setting annual plans for animal health programmes. Deciding whether to cull or treat stock.

Business

Ordering supplies at most economical price. Organising all contractors to meet farm policies and budgets. Maintaining knowledge of and planning to meet key performance indicators. Monitoring and working within budget guidelines for cost/ expenses. Maintaining knowledge of cost of production.

Environment

Setting effluent plan and monitoring system. Making sure all plans are implemented, monitored and up to date to meet compliance requirements. Following milk processor’s quality assurance practices.

People

Creating rosters for staff, including calf rearers or seasonal employees. Allocating role responsibilities i.e. who does what. Monitoring performance. Conflict resolution. Allocating the appropriate training relevant to the budget and individuals training needs. Building a team culture that supports the farms goals and values. Staff gap analysis and assessing/ implementing training requirements.

Education and training

Check out education, training and qualifications in the section below.

* Average Farm Manager salary, Farming Salaries 2017, Remuneration Summary Report 2016/17, Federated Farmers.

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Operations Manager

Salary: $79,000

Operations Managers are often associated with a large-scale dairy farming business that has a number of farms. Operational roles are strategic in nature and are directly responsible for returning farm/ share holder profits and ascertaining long term farm viability.

Operations Managers are often responsible for planning, reviewing, executing and reporting against the overall business goals. In charge of farm management. Responsibilities cover all areas including budgeting, targets and resource requirements. May be responsible for multiple farms.

Duties might include

The Operations Manager works with the Farm Owner or directors to develop strategy. Commonly they supervise multiple Farm Managers and/or Sharemilkers to ensure that the owner’s strategy is implemented. Their role often extends to coaching Farm Managers working under their supervision. The Operations Manager acts on behalf of the Farm Owner, taking responsibility to ensure that the Farm Owner’s strategy is implemented and overall profit and production targets are met.

An Operations Manager is well versed and competent in all areas of production and staff management. With over five years of on-farm experience, having worked effectively as Farm Manager you will have gained expertise in all the required elements needed for productive farm management. You will also have considerable experience in managing staff, and be able to communicate effectively at all levels of the business.

The role of Operations Manager has no ‘typical’ next role. Given the high level of skills and experience needed it is not unusual for many Operations Managers to move straight to farm ownership.

Education and training

Check out education, training and qualifications in the section below.

* Average Operations Manager salary, Farming Salaries 2017, Remuneration Summary Report 2016/17, Federated Farmers.

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Contract Milker

(self employed)

A Contract Milker is a self-employed farmer managing the property who is paid on a negotiated set price per kgMS produced. A Contract Milker typically provides labour, paying for shed costs, electricity, and vehicles and also has administrative, insurance and ACC costs.

Variable Order Sharemilker

(self employed)

An arrangement where the farmer managing the property is paid on a percentage of milk income e.g. 25%. This operating structure doesn’t own or part-own the milking herd. The sharemilker and farm owner will have agreed the costs that the sharemilker will provide typically including, labour, shed costs, electricity and transport.

 

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Herd Owning Sharemilker / 50:50 Sharemilker

A Sharemilker supplies the herd and operates the farm on behalf of the Farm Owner. A Sharemilker receives 50% of milk income and all money from the sale of livestock.

Under a Herd Owning Sharemilking agreement, the sharemilker traditionally received 50% of payout. Herd owning arrangements can range between 40 and 60% of milk price and the dividend may or may not be included in the sharing of income.

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Farm Owner


Own your own farm.


EMPLOYEE AND SELF-EMPLOYED CAREER PATHWAYS

EMPLOYEE AND SELF-EMPLOYED CAREER PATHWAYS

TRAINING OPTIONS

The following is not an exclusive list but suggested training. For a comprehensive list of training and industry-agreed dairy farm role descriptions visit DairyNZ.

Farm Assistant

Farm Assistants don’t always need formal training to get a position on a farm. When hiring, most employers will consider your attitude and personal qualities. You can expect to receive a large amount of informal on-the-job training. Farm Assistants work closely with a Farm Manager or Farm Owner, you will have opportunities to ask questions and be shown how to do tasks.

Formal

PrimaryITO

  • L3 Dairy Livestock Husbandry – gain skills and knowledge in dairy breeding, health and husbandry
  • L3 Milk Harvesting – for those new to the sector
  • Quad bike licence

Informal

DairyNZ

Herd Manager

A large range of training is available for Herd Managers and since you are still in a supervised role, there is opportunity for you to ask your Manager questions.

Formal

PrimaryITO

  • Livestock Feeding Level 3 – For those who’ve been working on a dairy farm for at least one year
  • Dairy Farming Level 4 – Recommended for Herd Managers looking to move into positions of more responsibility on farm

Informal

Herd Managers work closely with the Farm Manager or Farm Owner. You’ll have opportunities to ask questions and be shown how to do tasks. Other informal training methods include:

  • Calf rearing – Basic
  • Lameness – The Healthy Hoof programme focuses on prevention of lameness in conjunction with information and training on management and treatment of lame cows
  • Biz Start – Designed to meet the needs of farmers looking to progress
  • Healthy Udder – Improve systems and practices on individual farms

Assistant Manager

Assistant Manager training can be a mixture of formal and informal training. As people progress, there can be additional emphasis on written and verbal communication skills.

Formal

PrimaryITO

  • Production Management – For people with several years’ experience looking to move into more responsible positions on farm with a focus on farm production
  • Effective Leadership Level 3 – For aspiring and current supervisors, managers or employers responsible for staff

Informal

Farm Manager

Formal

Polytechs: Wintec, Ara, EIT, SIT, To Ohomai

  • Diploma in Agribusiness Management
  • Human Resource Module
  • Resource Management and Planning Module
  • Business
  • Financial Planning and Management Module
  • Mastitis Management

University qualifications

  • Diploma in Farm Management
  • Bachelor of Agriculture
  • Bachelor of Agricultural Science
  • Bachelor of Commerce (Agriculture)

Informal

Operations Manager

Formal

Polytechnics: Wintec, Ara, EIT, SIT, Toi Ohomai

  • Diploma in Agribusiness Management – HR Module
  • Resource Management & Planning Module
  • Business Financial Planning and Management Module
  • Mastitis Management
  • Effluent Management Planning
  • Farmers as Trainers

University

  • BAgSci, B Ag, BVetSci, BCom
  • AgriOne Short Courses
  • Tactical Risk Management
  • Farming Systems
  • Precision Dairying

Informal

DairyNZ

  • Farm Gauge
  • Mark and Measure
  • BizGrow
  • Cashflow budgeting workshops
  • DairyBase
  • HR Toolkit
  • QuickPlan- Budget templates and guides (personal and business)
  • Sharemilker and Variable Order calculators
  • Farm discussion group

Dairy Women’s Network 

  • Online Discussion Group
  • Regional Groups
  • Annual Conference
  • Financial Capability
  • Water Efficiency on farm
  • Building your Team Webinar
  • Dairy Days DVDs

STORIES ABOUT PEOPLE JUST LIKE YOU

“in the dairy sector there are many career pathways and You can progress up the ranks to farm management with many options along the way.”

Claire Douglas, Herd Manager

PATHWAYS TO FARMING

PATHWAYS TO FARMING

School to farming

You can start as a farm assistant and learn on the job. You may choose to study towards a qualification while in work, and join farmer groups where you can learn from others.

Tertiary study to farming

Some farmers go to a polytechnic or university and study an agricultural-related certificate, diploma, or degree before going dairy farming. Once farming, they continue to learn from other farmers and take courses while they work.

EDUCATION, TRAINING AND QUALIFICATIONS

EDUCATION, TRAINING AND QUALIFICATIONS

It’s recommended you gain qualifications, undertake on-the-job training and complete courses while you work. 

school

It’s recommended you study maths, sciences and business. IT skills are also important.

when to study

You can study a Certificate, Diploma or Degree qualification before you get a job or study part time while you work.

SCHOLARSHIPS

DairyNZ scholarships are for

GrowingNZ

Check out

WHERE TO STUDY

A number of training providers offer courses, from taster courses to New Zealand Certificates, Diplomas and Degrees. Check out the interactive map.

Apprenticeships

Earn while you learn. Be part of your local farming community with Federated Farmers Apprenticeship Dairy.

PRIMARY ITO

Primary ITO organises training and qualifications in your area. Courses range from starting out to 1-2 years’ experience and management.

Dairy training

Dairy Training works with Primary ITO to deliver off-job courses throughout New Zealand for NZQA levels 2-6. Training is vocational, meaning you learn while in employment.

“the career opportunities are endless – from getting your gumboots on in the morning, to being involved in the milk quality and service industry helping farmers, to working for multi-national companies overseas.”

Sam Moscrip, 22-year-old Herd Manager

Improve lives, enhance the environment, design the future

GETTING YOUR FIRST JOB

EMPLOYERS WANT

Build your reputation from day one and you’ll go far in the dairy sector. Be an employee with the right attitude, skills and a willingness to learn.

Get a mentor

A mentor is someone already working or familiar with the career you choose; someone you respect and can use as a sounding board for your ideas.

Networking

NZ Young Farmers is a progressive and dynamic social network for rural youth. Dairy Women’s Network is a vibrant community of women.

dairynz.co.nz

Employee information, tips and tricks for working in the dairy sector.

job search

Ask around or approach a farm. Check out DairyNZ, Farm Source jobs, Trade Me jobs, Seek or Indeed.

Are you with these social networks?

Other DAIRY SECTOR careers

Considered an agri-science or agri-business career?

DairyNZ Bright Kiwis

DairyNZ Bright Kiwis is all celebrating dairy sector careers and education. Follow Bright Kiwis for dairy sector opportunities.

 

TeenAg

TeenAg makes agriculture fun and accessible to students from all walks of life, they do not need to be from a farm, they just need to have a love of the land and keen to get their hands dirty.

 

New Zealand Young Farmers

NZYF is a non-profit social organisation which is tonnes of fun with down to earth people. It’s a progressive and dynamic network for rural youth which develops the leadership and personal skills of its members through participation, achievement and having FUN.

   

DairyNZ

From employee and education information including DairyNZ scholarships to research and dairy sector news.

   

DISCOVER YOUR FIT

What do you enjoy? Match your skills and interests to a dairy sector career.

WHERE TO STUDY

Find out options to learn and study for a successful dairy sector career.

PEOPLE LIKE YOU

Read stories about people just like you and their journeys to successful dairy sector careers.

INSPIRING STORIES

News and stories about people in dairy farming, agri-science and agri-business careers.