Farm assistants help farmers with a variety of tasks, including raising and caring for animals, repairs and maintenance, tractor work and other farming activities.
Farm assistants usually earn
$42K-$53K per year
Source: Federated Farmers/Rabobank, 2018.
Pay for farm assistants depends on experience, location, farm size, type of work and level of responsibility.
- Dairy farm assistants usually earn between $42,000 and $43,000 a year.
- Farm assistants on sheep and beef farms usually earn between $43,000 and $45,000.
- Tractor drivers on mixed crop and livestock farms can earn between $51,000 and $53,000.
Benefits offered to farm assistants may include production and performance bonuses, and free or partly paid for:
- power, phone, food and firewood
- training and education
The value of these benefits varies from $1,000 to $4,000 a year.
Source: Federated Farmers/Rabobank 'Farm Employee Remuneration Survey', 2018.
(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our pay information)
What you will do
Farm assistants may do some or all of the following:
- move animals between paddocks
- drench and dip animals, and
give them medicines
- operate farm machines to cultivate, fertilise, spray and harvest crops
- provide animals with food and water
- attend to animals while they are sick or giving birth
- groom, feed and care for horses
- collect, sort and pack animal products such as eggs or wool
- clean and repair buildings, yards and fences
- operate and maintain farm machinery such as tractors and wool-pressing machines.
Skills and knowledge
Farm assistants need to have:
- knowledge of different farming methods
- knowledge of the animals they are dealing with, including their life and breeding cycles
- knowledge of how to use and maintain farm equipment and machinery
- practical skills for tasks such as fencing
- driving skills for motorbikes, tractors or farm utility vehicles.
- may work long and irregular hours depending on the season and the type of farm
- work outdoors as well as in sheds and barns
- work in all weather conditions
- usually live on or near the farm where they are employed.
What's the job really like?
Cadetship leads to shepherd work
Dannevirke farm assistant Connor McIntyre is on track to becoming a shepherd after completing a cadetship at Pukemiro station. Cadets are trained in all daily operations of the sheep and beef property.
Skills the cadets gain include animal husbandry, stockmanship, fencing, feed management, budgeting and farm technology. The small cadetship intake appealed to Connor. “It gives us more time with tutors, which means we develop our skills to a higher standard.”
Connor credits his TeenAg club membership and work experience with securing his cadetship. “They both showed that I work well as part of a team. Teamwork is a massive part of the job at Pukemiro because you’re always working with someone else.”
How to get a cadetship
To gain a cadetship, Connor's advice is to "develop your CV by attending open days and doing work experience to show you’re keen and have a good work ethic."
Cadetships provide the skills needed to move forward with a farming career. Alongside farm training, cadets develop other skills such as cooking, leadership, goal setting, personal care and time management.
“There’s lots to learn, but it’s quite exciting when you get among it. They’re all key skills that you’ll need to know once you’re out on your own,” Connor says.
There are no specific requirements to become a farm assistant. However, many employers prefer to employ people who have experience, pre-employment training, or are working towards a related qualification.
Pre-employment training options include internships, work experience and short courses available through private training organisations and polytechnics.
Apprentices earn while they learn and develop their skills and career prospects through on-the-job experience over two or three years. Apprenticeships are available through different industry organisations and companies.
Cadet training schemes are useful if you want to specialise in sheep and beef farming, and improve your skills and chances of employment. Cadet farms are run as commercial sheep and beef farms and offer one-to-two-year agricultural training programmes that lead to a New Zealand Certificate in Agriculture (Level 3 or 4).
- Young Farmers website - information on cadetships
- Beef and Lamb New Zealand website - information on beef and lamb cadetships
No specific secondary education is required for this job, but agricultural and horticultural science, technology, maths and English to at least NCEA Level 2 are useful.
Farm assistants need to be:
- motivated and willing to work hard
- adaptable and efficient
- willing to learn
- good with animals
- able to work well under pressure and as part of a team.
Useful experience for farm assistants includes:
- working with animals
- any type of farm work
- experience with machinery and tools
- engineering work such as welding
- forestry work
- driving heavy vehicles
- labouring work.
Farm assistants need to have a good level of fitness and stamina as farm work can be physically demanding.
Find out more about training
- Beef and Lamb New Zealand
- 0800 233352 - firstname.lastname@example.org - www.beeflambnz.com
- Dairy New Zealand
- 0800 43247969 - email@example.com - www.godairy.co.nz
- Primary ITO
- 0800 208020 - firstname.lastname@example.org - www.primaryito.ac.nz
What are the chances of getting a job?
Shortage of farm assistants
Demand for farm assistants has increased due to a shortage of new workers to replace those leaving the role. Many farmers have trouble finding staff.
Farm assistants with experience and qualifications are in demand throughout the year.
High seasonal demand for skilled farm assistants
Demand for skilled farm assistants is especially high during peak seasons such as:
- lambing and calving in spring
- crop harvesting in late summer and autumn
- shearing in summer and autumn in the South Island, and in summer and winter in the North Island.
Dairy farm assistant opportunities
The dairy sector is especially short of farm assistants due to the increasing size and number of dairy farms.
Dairy farmers will often train inexperienced people if you have a can-do attitude and willingness to learn.
Small range of employers
Most farm assistants work for private farmers or farm managers, or for private companies.
Other employers include public companies such as Pāmu (Landcorp), a state-owned enterprise that runs farms throughout the country.
Most farms employ between one and three farm assistants, but large farms can employ 20 or more.
- Federated Farmers, '2018 Farm Employee Remuneration Survey', August 2018, (www.fedfarm.org.nz).
- Hutching, G, 'Worker Shortage on the Land as Farmers Compete for Staff', 14 March 2018, (www.stuff.co.nz).
- O'Hara, Yvonne, 'Proposed Work Visa Changes Welcomed', Otago Daily Times, 16 January 2019, (www.odt.co.nz).
- Young Farmers NZ, 'Former TeenAg Member Lands a Coveted Cadetship at Pukemiro Station in Dannevirke', 13 May 2019, (www.youngfarmers.co.nz).
(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our job opportunities information)
Progression and specialisations
Farm assistants may move into farm management positions, such as herd manager, assistant manager and farm manager, or become self-employed farmers. They may become farm consultants, sell agricultural products, or work in other areas of the agriculture industry.
Farm assistants may specialise in areas such as:
- Cattle Farm Assistant
- Cattle farm assistants raise and care for beef cattle, and perform routine tasks on beef cattle farms such as feeding, mustering and moving cattle.
- Dairy Farm Assistant
- Dairy farm assistants raise and care for cows, and perform routine tasks on dairy farms such as herding and milking cattle.
- Pig Farm Assistant
- Pig farm workers raise and care for pigs for the production of meat and breeding stock.
- Poultry Farm Assistant
- Poultry farm assistants raise and care for chickens or other poultry to produce meat, and/or keep hens to produce eggs.
- Sheep Farm Assistant
- Sheep farm assistants raise and care for sheep and help to prepare them for shearing, crutching, dipping and yarding for sale.
- Stablehands exercise, feed and care for horses at a stable, and keep the stable and the stable yard clean.
- Wool Handler/Presser
- Wool handlers/pressers regulate the flow of sheep to be shorn, as well as picking up and sorting wool in a shearing shed and pressing it into bales.
Last updated 17 December 2019