Herd manager

As a 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.


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


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.


You’ll understand and implement efficient milking practices and keep the farm dairy hygienic. You’ll record health treatments and solve milk quality problems.

Animal health

You’ll diagnose common ailments and treat these accordingly. You’ll be competent in all aspects of calving and reproduction, e.g. observation and recording of on-heat cows.


You’ll understand regulations and management of nutrients, effluent and
water and their most efficient use. 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 herd manager Matt Dawson has big career goals. He went farming at 16-years old and studies while working.

Sam Moscrip | Herd Manager

“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.”




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.



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

What to study

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

Work experience

You’ll require one to two years’ farm experience. Often herd managers have come from a farm assistant role.

While no management experience is required, the desire to support and supervise staff is critical to your success.

Where to study

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.

The following formal and informal training is additional to the experience you will gain and training and study you might complete in a farm assistant role.


Primary ITO

  • 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

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. 


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.


  • 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

Getting into a job

Job searches

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

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.

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.


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

Got a question? Contact us

About DairyNZ

DairyNZ is an organisation that, through research, events, services, education and policy, works with dairy farmers to secure and enhance the profitability, sustainability and competitiveness of New Zealand dairy farming. New Zealand dairy farmers pay DairyNZ a levy to support them.