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Kaiwhakahaere Mīraka Kau

Alternative titles for this job

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.


Sharemilkers usually earn

$64K-$97K per year

Source: DairyNZ, 2019.

Job opportunities

Chances of getting a job as a sharemilker are good due to a shortage of workers and high demand for their services.


Pay for sharemilkers varies depending on how much milk their cows produce and milk company payouts linked to global market conditions and the price of milk solids.

  • Sharemilkers usually earn between $64,000 and $97,000 a year.

Contract milking and variable order sharemilking

Contract milkers are self-employed and manage farms. They are paid on a negotiated set price per kgMS (amount of milk) produced. They also usually provide labour, shed costs, electricity and vehicles.

Variable or lower order sharemilkers are paid based on a percentage of milk income. The sharemilker and farm owner agree on what the sharemilker will provide such as labour, shed costs, electricity and vehicles.

Herd owning and 50:50 sharemilking

50:50 sharemilkers supply the herd and operate the dairy farm on behalf of the farm owner. They get 50% of milk income and all money from the sale of livestock.

Sharemilkers who own their own herd can earn between 40% and 60% of milk income.

Source: DairyNZ, 'Economic Survey 2017-18', 2019.

(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our pay information)

What you will do

Sharemilkers may do some or all of the following:

  • provide labour, shed costs, electricity and vehicles on farms
  • own, manage and milk herds of cows 
  • manage farming activities on behalf of farm owners
  • be responsible for calf rearing and cattle reproduction
  • negotiate profit-sharing contracts with dairy owners or farm companies
  • buy and sell livestock
  • follow health and safety and wellbeing procedures.

Skills and knowledge

Sharemilkers need to have knowledge of:

  • sharemilking contracts and payment arrangements
  • dairy farming practices
  • accounting and business practices.

Working conditions


  • usually start early in the morning and work until late afternoon
  • may work long hours during peak times, and can work six days a week
  • work on farms and in milking sheds
  • work outside with animals, crops and machinery in all weather conditions.

What's the job really like?

Sharemilker video

Hollie Wham and Owen Clegg talk about 50:50 sharemilking - 2.44 mins (Video courtesy of GlobalHQ)

Owen: I've always dreamed to be a dairy farmer from a young age. I was the townie kid that used to have tractors.
Hollie: He used to sell his produce to the Barbies and then he used to break-fence rabbits.
Owen laughs.
Hollie: Carry on.
Owen: Being able to go outdoors instead of being indoors stuck inside of an office -
whether it's rainy, snowy, windy, whatever, it doesn't worry me as long as I'm outside.
Hollie: Yeah, it's just being outdoors being with the cows in all sorts of weather. Nothing, like giving out a good scratch at five o'clock in the morning to a friendly cow.
I'm Holly.
Owen: I'm Owen and we're 50:50 sharemilking down in coastal Manutahi.
Hollie: Here we own the cows and the machinery and the farm owners pretty much own the land.
Owen: The total farm is 74ha but we have a 6ha lake under QE2 bang in the middle and we have 6ha of sand dunes in the back.
Hollie: So we got our second share milking job start of June this season. Our ultimate goal is farm ownership of like 200 cow dairy farm sort of thing.
It's all the steps that we're sort of taking at the moment. We're hoping will point us in the right direction of building up an equity and building up a capital and whatnot to hopefully progress us further forward.
Owen: So the award we won was a Taranaki Share Farmer of the Year. It's expanded our business.
We've been able to push ourselves to a whole new level and realise that we're capable of a lot more than what we actually thought.
Hollie: It's just sort of given us confidence in ourselves to push forward and give it everything to go rather than just sit back and watch everyone else do it.
How we handle living and working together 24/7 is know your place.
Owen: So I'm the boss, she does what she's told.
Hollie: Wow.
Owen: Our roles are, I sort of look after the milking shed and the feed side of things.
Hollie's looking after the calves in getting on to their mating and reproduction side of it and all the areas we sort of work in
together to make it all happen really.
Hollie: At the end of the day we go home and we share the cooking we share the cleaning.
Owen: That's the truth too.
Hollie: You can never learn too much sort of thing, you just keep going and every jobs different so you can always learn different stuff or try different things.
Owen: I think if you're driven - that's in the industry, you'll get wherever you want to get.

Entry requirements

There are no specific requirements to become a sharemilker. However, a relevant training course is recommended as dairy farmers prefer to work with trained or experienced sharemilkers.

A business, science or agricultural related certificate, diploma or degree in science, commerce, business or economics will help advance your dairy career. 


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 dairy industry organisations and companies. 

Secondary education

No specific secondary education is required for this job, but agricultural and horticultural science, digital technologies, maths and English to at least NCEA Level 2 are useful.

Personal requirements

Sharemilkers need to be:

  • confident and caring with animals
  • practical
  • hardworking and motivated
  • responsible 
  • willing to learn
  • able to work under pressure and in a team.

Useful experience

Useful experience for sharemilkers includes:

  • working with animals 
  • farm, forestry, engineering or labouring work
  • using technology
  • driving farm vehicles and machinery
  • managing a business.

Physical requirements

Sharemilkers need to have a good level of fitness as dairy farm work can be physically demanding.

Find out more about training

0800 4324 7969 - -
Primary ITO
0800 20 80 20 - -
Check out related courses

What are the chances of getting a job?

High demand for sharemilkers

Chances of getting a job as a sharemilker are good because there is a shortage of workers and high demand for people with dairy farming skills.

Experienced sharemilkers are particularly in demand throughout the milking season. About 40% of New Zealand dairy farms use sharemilkers.

Dairy cattle farmer (sharemilker) appears on Immigration New Zealand's regional skill shortage list. This means the Government is actively encouraging skilled sharemilkers from overseas to work in New Zealand.

According to the Census, 26,541 dairy cattle farmers worked in New Zealand in 2018.

Self-employment usual among sharemilkers

Sharemilkers are self-employed and negotiate and set up profit-sharing contracts with dairy farmers.


  • DairyNZ, ‘Dairy Farm Career Pathways Standard Roles’, accessed December 2019, (
  • DairyNZ, ‘Employee’, accessed December 2019, (
  • DairyNZ, 'Economic Survey 2017-18', May 2019, (
  • DairyNZ, 'QuickStats About Dairying - New Zealand', January 2019, (
  • Federated Farmers, 'Farming Salaries 2018: Remuneration Summary Report 2017/2018', accessed November 2019, (
  • GoDairy, 'Dairy Farming - Find Out How To Make Your Career Happen', accessed December 2019, (
  • Hutching, G, 'First Time Dairy Buyers Take the Plunge', Stuff, 11 August 2019, (
  • Immigration New Zealand, 'Regional Skill Shortage List', 27 May 2019, (
  • LIC/DairyNZ, 'New Zealand Dairy Statistics 2017-18', accessed December 2019, (
  • Stats NZ, '2018 Census Data', 2019.

(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our job opportunities information)

Progression and specialisations

Sharemilkers may progress to other roles in the dairy industry such as:

Sharemilkers can specialise in a number of roles, including:

Contract Milker
Contract milkers pay for a percentage of the farm costs (without owning the cows) and receive a set price per kilogram of milk solids.
Variable or Lower Order Sharemilker
Variable or lower order sharemilkers manage farm property and are paid a percentage of milk income.
Herd Owning or 50:50 Sharemilker
Herd owning or 50:50 sharemilkers supply the herd and operate the farm for its owner. 
A sharemilker milking a cow in a milking shed

Sharemilkers milk cows for a profit share of a dairy farm (Photo: DairyNZ)

Last updated 27 March 2024