Self-employed dairy farmers

Pre-herd business owners, and herd owning, land owning or leasing business owner are all self employed, and often their own bosses.

Pre-herd business owner

Contract milker

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

A variable order sharemilker is 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.

Herd or land owning, or leasing business owner

Herd owning sharemilker / 50:50 sharemilker

A sharemilker supplies the herd and operates the farm on behalf of the farm owner. A aharemilker 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.

Career story

Hollie Wham and Owen Clegg are 50:50 sharemilkers. Owen says he was the townie kid that used to have tractors and always dreamed about being a dairy farmer from a young age.

Phillip van Heuven | 50:50 Sharemilker

“My future goals in farming are to progress into a bigger sharemilking operation and, eventually, either farm ownership or equity partnership.”



Sharemilkers can earn between $64K-$97K per year. However, this varies depending on how much milk their cows produce and milk company payouts linked to global market conditions and the price of milk solids.

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.