Roles Overview


2 min read

Farm assistant Herd manager Assistant manager Farm manager Operations manager Pre-herd business owner Herd owning, Land owning or

This page covers the seven primary roles on New Zealand dairy farms. When you're considering a new farm job, it's important to check if your potential employer is a good fit for you. Each role becomes the building blocks to step into the next role. This page contains the job descriptions and highlights an overview of skills and personal attributes for each role.

For more about the experience, level of supervision, skills, knowledge and attributes expected in each of these roles download Dairy Farm Career Pathways standard roles.

Farm assistant

Farm assistants are new entrants and generally work under full supervision. They assist with daily operational tasks as directed, including feeding, milking, animal health, and effluent. 

Farm assistants don't always need formal training to get a position on farm. Most employers will consider attitude and personal qualities first, and then provide informal on-the-job training. Farm assistants work closely with a Farm manager or Farm owner.

A farm assistant will gain experience in various responsibilities, from efficiently milking and handling animals to understanding health and safety procedures. 

View more on the farm assistant role, including training options, on the GoDairy website.

Herd manager

Herd managers are focused on farm improvement and are building their ability to prioritise tasks.

Understands and takes responsibility for daily tasks such as running of the dairy, effluent management and feeding. Completes tasks with minimal supervision and can supervise and train other staff. Looks for opportunities to work more effectively and efficiently to improve the business. Will also guide and train other staff and comply with legal and safety requirements. 

View more on the herd manager role, including training options, on the GoDairy website.

Assistant manager

Assistant managers help with the management of daily activities and implementing farm policies and plans. They manage daily planning and staff management in the absence of the farm manager/owner.

They manage areas like milking, animal care, feed, environment, staff training, machinery maintenance, health and safety, as well as strategic planning. They focus on optimising quality, efficiency, and compliance with regulations. Training options are available to enhance their skills in production management and leadership. Overall, their role is critical in maintaining the smooth functioning and development of the farm.

View more on the assistant manager role, including training options, on the GoDairy website.

Farm manager

Farm managers are responsible for meeting farm goals in terms of production, stock, feed, environment, machinery and people management. Can monitor, analyse, interpret and report appropriate benchmarks. Ensures farm policies and plans are implemented. Is responsible for meeting the budget and accountable for farm expenses.

When you're considering a new farm job, it's important to check if your potential employer is a good fit for you. Request a farm résumé or farmer CV, which should detail their goals, values, and provide evidence of their claims, references, and contacts of current or past employees. If unavailable, ask these details directly and note them for reflection. Engage with current or past employees to gain insights into the employer and farm culture. Don't forget to ask about their career development opportunities and how you would fit into their long-term farm goals. You can also seek advice from farmer advisory groups.

View more on the farm manager role, including training options, on the GoDairy website.

Operations manager

Operations managers in the dairy farming business ensure that all parts of the farm are working efficiently towards common goals. They manage various aspects including milking, animal health, feeding, environmental plans, people management, machines, health, safety, and wellbeing. Their responsibilities also extend to financial planning and strategic business management.

They should possess financial, strategic, and farm system skills, and be capable of conflict resolution. Training options are available through formal institutions like polytechnics and universities, as well as non-formal programmes through DairyNZ and the Dairy Women's Network.

View more on the operations manager role, including training options, on the GoDairy website.

Pre-herd business owner

Responsible for overall management of the farm in conjunction with farm owner/s. Self-employed and has own business structure and financial budget. Generally responsible for a proportion of the farm costs and is paid on a negotiated set price per kg MS produced or percentage of milk income. Minimal equity is required – does not own any of the milking herd. Investigate the different farm business types below and consider what would work best for you.

View more on pre-herd owning roles in the dairy industry.

Herd owning, Land owning or Leasing business owner

Herd owning sharemilking (HOSM) is a partnership between a farm owner and a sharemilker who supplies the herd and operates the farm. Significant equity required and a HOSM is responsible for the strategic performance of the farm including governance and management decisions. 

There are different HOSM arrangements, such as the traditional 50% milk income for the sharemilker and variable rate agreements that can range between 40% and 60% of the milk price. It is important to have information on land lease agreements, including variable lease rates that fluctuate with the milk price, and equity partnerships, which involve collaboration between individuals pooling capital and skills for farm investment.

View more on herd owning, landing owning leasing business owner roles in the dairy industry.

Last updated: Sep 2023

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