A reference list of accessibility keys Careers New Zealand home page Sitemap Search the website About us Contact us govt.nz Jump to content Jump to site navigation main-menu Left column sub navigation menu Jump to page header Jump to page footer Jump to right-hand column

Dairy FarmerAlternative titles

Kaiahuwhenua Miraka Kau

This job is sometimes referred to as:

Contract Milker
Dairy Farm Manager
Dairy Herd Manager

Dairy farmers feed, care for, and milk herds of cows on farms. They aim to get the cows to produce as much high quality milk as possible, cost-effectively.

Contact us

Call us on 0800 222 733

What are the chances of getting a job?


Chances of getting a job as a dairy farmer are good due to high demand for experienced herd and farm managers.

According to Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment estimates, the number of dairy farmers increased slightly – by about 2% – between 2010 and 2012. Managing farms is a stepping stone to dairy farm ownership, and vacancies for managers arise frequently as people progress, move between farms, or retire.

Shortage of experienced managers

Dairy farm manager, herd manager, and assistant roles appear on Immigration New Zealand's immediate skill shortage list. This means the Government is actively encouraging skilled people in these roles to come and work in New Zealand.

Dairy farms range in size

Dairy farmers may work for themselves, as permanent staff members, or on a range of profit-sharing contracts, which includes part-ownership. Farms range in size – from small units supporting one or two workers, to large units with up to 10 staff or more.

A few large farming property companies own many dairy farms, and employ managers and other staff to run them.


  • Federated Farmers, '2012 Farm Employee Remuneration Report', 1 May 2012, (www.fedfarm.org.nz).
  • Immigration New Zealand, 'Immediate Skill Shortage List', 11 February 2013, (www.immigration.govt.nz).
  • Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, '2003-2012 Occupation Data', (prepared for Careers New Zealand), March 2012.

Current vacancies

Technical Team Leader - Permanent - Full time Listed: 22 Dec 2014 Canterbury
Missouri USA Farming - University Grads Listed: 17 Dec 2014 Canterbury
Experienced Contract Milker Listed: 29 Nov 2014 Canterbury
Dairy Farm Managers required in Victoria Australia Listed: 05 Dec 2014 Auckland
Regional Dairy Operations Manager - Lower North Listed: 22 Dec 2014 Taranaki
Regional Dairy Operations Manager - Upper North Listed: 22 Dec 2014 Waikato
Regional Dairy Operations Manager - Central North Listed: 22 Dec 2014 Waikato

Other vacancy websites

Progression and specialisations

Most dairy farmers start as farm workers or assistants, and progress into other roles such as herd manager or sharemilker. Some eventually buy and run their own farms.

During their career, dairy farmers may choose from a variety of profit-sharing and management roles, such as:

Contract Milker
Contract milkers pay for a percentage of the farm costs (without owning the cows) and receive a percentage of the profits.
Dairy Farm Manager
Dairy farm managers are responsible for the financial and physical performance of the farm in consultation with a farm's owner.
Dairy Herd Manager
Herd managers are paid a wage to look after a herd.
Sharemilkers either milk a dairy farmer's cows for a profit share, or own a herd of cows and milk them on an owner's land for a profit share.

Other employment and profit-sharing arrangements are available in the dairy farming industry. The Go Dairy website has details about all options.

How many people are doing this job?

Year 2012
Year 2011
Year 2010
Source: Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, '2003-2012 Occupation Data' (prepared for Careers New Zealand), 2012.

A dairy farmer sorting cows in a yard

Some skill shortages exist for dairy farm managers (Photo courtesy of Taratahi Agricultural Training Centre)

A dairy farmer in a milking shed with cows

Dairy farmers may progress into roles like herd manager

Updated 19 Aug 2013