NZ Farm Facts

NZ Farm Facts

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(Based on 2012/2013 LIC and Dairy NZ surveys.)
(Based on 2012/2013 survey data NZ Beef & Lamb)

Select a Farming sector: Dairy Beef Sheep

Dairying is New Zealand’s largest industry and one of the fastest growing. It is a significant employer and contributor to much of the wealth that underpins New Zealand’s standard of living.

  • The dairy season runs from 1 June to 31 May each year.
  • New Zealand dairy companies process 19 billion litres of milk, containing 1.66 billion kilograms of milk solids annually (2012/2013 season).
  • 95% of all NZ milk produced is exported.
  • There are about 11,800 dairy herds, totalling over 4.6 million cows.
  • The majority of dairy herds (75%) are located in the North Island, with the greatest concentration (30%) situated in the Waikato region. Taranaki is the next largest with 15% of dairy herds. The greatest concentration in the South Island is in North Canterbury (13%) followed by Southland (11%).
  • The average herd size in New Zealand is 393.
  • Generally the largest farms and herds are in the South Island, where there has been most growth in dairy farming in the last 10 years. South Canterbury has the largest average herd size of 779 cows.
  • 42% of dairy revenue comes from whole milk powder with the rest comprising of skim milk, butter, cheese and other dairy products.
  • A large proportion (52%) of New Zealand’s total land area of 268,000 km2 is devoted to grazing of livestock on pasture, cropping or lies fallow. Of these three land uses, grazing livestock occupy the majority of land-use.

Choose a job title below for a general overview of that particular job:

Dairy

Farm Assistant

  • Position description:This is normally an entry level position working under full supervision.  This position would assist with the day to day tasks on farm including feeding; milking cows (machine milking through a rotary or herringbone shed), basic tractor work; use of 2 and 4 wheel farm motorbikes; basic animal health; fencing and general farm maintenance.
  • Suitable candidates:These positions suit most entrants coming into the Dairy industry, as they provide an opportunity to learn New Zealand dairy farming systems under supervision. They are a necessary step in climbing the dairy industry “ladder”.
  • Typical working hours:These hours vary significantly from farm to farm and season to season, ranging from 50 hours a week (quiet periods) to 85 hours a week (e.g. during peak calving season, July – October).
  • Leave:Annual leave of 4 weeks a year plus statutory holidays (or days in lieu) plus rostered days off, which vary from farm to farm
  • Typical contract period:Usually minimum of a year (or longer)
  • Typical salary range: *$35,000 – $40,000 per annum depending on the region, size of farm and also on the level of New Zealand and other experience.

*These figures are before tax and other bonuses (e.g. meat, milk from farm) and benefits (e.g. housing – usually provided on farm).

Assistant Herd Manager

  • Position description:Normally requires at least one to two years’ experience or a relevant qualification.  Typically these positions involve assisting the Farm Manager/Owner in all activities on the farm, with some responsibility outside the dairy shed (such as learning pasture or herd management) under guidance from a Manager/Owner.
  • Suitable candidates:These positions suit those with some dairy farming experience seeking to develop the skills required to move into a Herd Management position.
  • Typical working hours:These hours vary significantly from farm to farm and season to season, ranging from 50 hours a week (quiet periods) to 85 hours a week (e.g. during peak calving season).
  • Leave:Annual leave of 4 weeks a year plus statutory holidays (or days in lieu) plus rostered days off, which vary from farm to farm
  • Typical contract period:Usually minimum of a year (or longer)
  • Typical salary range:*$38,000 – $42,000 per annum depending on the region, size of farm and also on the level of New Zealand and other experience.

*These figures are before tax and other bonuses (e.g. meat, milk from farm) and benefits (e.g. housing – usually provided on farm).

Herd Manager

  • Position description:Normally requires at least two years’ dairy farming experience and usually a relevant qualification. Works under limited supervision.  Completes the day to day tasks on farm, often taking responsibility for the running of the dairy shed and other routine tasks including individual responsibility for herd and pasture management.
  • Suitable candidates:These positions suit those with good dairy experience. This is a necessary step in climbing the dairy industry “ladder” towards Farm Management.
  • Typical working hours:These hours vary significantly from farm to farm and season to season, ranging from 50 hours a week (quiet periods) to 85 hours a week (e.g. during peak calving season).
  • Leave:Annual leave of 4 weeks a year plus statutory holidays (or days in lieu) plus rostered days off, which vary from farm to farm
  • Typical contract period:Usually minimum of a year (or longer)
  • Typical salary range:*$42,000 – $50,000 per annum depending on the region, size of farm and also on the level of New Zealand and other experience.

*These figures are before tax and other bonuses (e.g. meat, milk from farm) and benefits (e.g. housing – usually provided on farm).

Farm Manager

  • Position description:Normally requires at least three to five years’ experience and relevant qualifications. Works with minimal input from farm owner/s.  Responsible for meeting farm goals, including all aspects of production, stock, environmental and staff management.  Sometimes involved in the budgeting process.
  • Suitable candidates:You will need proven dairy farming experience including strong pasture management, animal health, leadership and organisational skills.  This position will provide a good step into a larger farm Operations Manager role, Contract Milking or Lower Order Share milking opportunities.
  • Typical working hours:These hours vary significantly from farm to farm and season to season, ranging from 50 hours a week (quiet periods) to 85 hours a week (e.g. during peak calving season).
  • Leave:Annual leave of 4 weeks a year plus statutory holidays (or days in lieu) plus rostered days off, which vary from farm to farm
  • Typical contract period:Usually minimum of a year (or longer)
  • Typical salary range:*$55,000 – $75,000+ per annum depending on the region, size of farm and also on the level of New Zealand and other experience.

*These figures are before tax and other bonuses (e.g. meat, milk from farm) and benefits (e.g. housing – usually provided on farm). 

Contract milking / Lower Order Sharemilking

  • Position Description:For simplicity these are combined here. Essentially these positions are the interim step between Farm Management and Sharemilking. They involve all the responsibilities of a Farm Manager but with added incentives and financial responsibility.
  • Usually candidates have to provide their own motorbikes (and in some cases other farm equipment eg. fencing and calf rearing gear, general hand tools) and are responsible for the costs of all labour on the farm and shed expenses. In return you receive a percentage of milk payout (often between 20% and 25%) or a set price per kilogram of milk solids produced. You will be responsible for full farm management including labour.
  • Attraction:Such arrangements incentivise managers and allow them to gain the skills necessary to progress to Sharemilking.
  • Contract term:Typically 1 to 3 years.

Sharemilking

  • Position Description:Sharemilking involves sharing milk income and farm costs (theoretically 50:50 but recently with more costs weighted to the Sharemilker) but with the Sharemilker retaining 100% of income from stock sales.The farm owner retains ownership of the farm and the Sharemilker provides his/her own cows, farm machinery and essentially farms the farm as if it were his/her own. This usually requires the Sharemilker providing a deposit to a bank and borrowing the remaining funds to finance the purchase of machinery and stock.
  • Attraction:Sharemilking provides the attraction of running your own business, with all the attached risks and responsibilities. It has traditionally provided substantial financial rewards that allow progression to farm ownership. Whilst farms in New Zealand have now become very expensive in relation to farming returns, excellent Sharemilkers are still managing to achieve their dreams of farm ownership through Sharemilking.
  • Contract term:Typically 3 years

Drystock (Sheep & Beef)

General Hand

  • Position description:Generally up to two years’ experience and working under full supervision.  Typically these positions involve assisting the Farm Manager/Owner in all activities on the farm, usually as part of a team.  Main duties include daily shifting of stock; feeding out; basic tractor work; use of 2 and 4-wheel farm motorbikes or ATVs (all terrain vehicles); monitoring of cows and ewes during calving and lambing; basic animal health; fencing and general farm maintenance.
  • Suitable candidates:These positions suit most entrants into the New Zealand Drystock industry, as they provide an opportunity to learn New Zealand farming systems under supervision. They are an ideal and necessary first step in climbing the industry “ladder”.
  • Typical working hours:These hours vary from farm to farm and season to season. A range would be from 50 hours a week (quiet periods) to 70 hours a week (e.g. during calving, lambing, shearing and docking).
  • Leave:Annual leave of 4 weeks a year plus statutory holidays (or days in lieu) plus rostered days off, which vary from farm to farm
  • Typical contract period:Usually minimum of one year (or longer)
  • Typical salary range:*$32,000 – $38,000 per annum depending on the region, size of farm and also on the level of New Zealand and other experience.

*These figures are before tax and other bonuses (e.g. meat, milk from farm) and benefits (e.g. housing – usually provided on farm).

Shepherd

  • Position description:Generally at least two years relevant farm experience. The role usually requires limited supervision.  Completing and often taking responsibility for day to day tasks on farm including basic pasture management.  It is advantageous (but often not essential) to have your own working dogs.
  • Suitable candidates:This position suits those with some years’ of experience and is an important step in climbing the industry “ladder”.
  • Typical working hours:These hours vary from farm to farm and season to season. A range would be from 50 hours a week (quiet periods) to 70 hours a week (e.g. during calving, lambing, shearing and docking).
  • Leave:Annual leave of 4 weeks a year plus statutory holidays (or days in lieu) plus rostered days off, which vary from farm to farm
  • Typical contract period:Usually minimum of one year (or longer)
  • Typical salary range:*$38,000 – $42,000 per annum depending on the region, size of farm and also on the level of New Zealand and other experience.

*These figures are before tax and other bonuses (e.g. meat, milk from farm) and benefits (e.g. housing – usually provided on farm).

Head Shepherd

  • Position description:Usually at least two years relevant farm experience and will supervise other Shepherd/s.  Will have a competent team of dogs and contribute to stock decisions.  Will also have more significant responsibility with pasture management.
  • Suitable candidates:These positions suit candidates progressing towards Farm Manager level.
  • Typical working hours:These hours vary from farm to farm and season to season. A range would be from 55 hours a week (quiet periods) to 70 hours a week (e.g. during calving, lambing, shearing and docking).
  • Leave:Annual leave of 4 weeks a year plus statutory holidays (or days in lieu) plus rostered days off, which vary from farm to farm
  • Typical contract period:Usually minimum of one year (or longer)
  • Typical salary range:*$42,000 – $47,000 per annum depending on the region, size of farm and also on the level of New Zealand and other experience.

*These figures are before tax and other bonuses (e.g. meat, milk from farm) and benefits (e.g. housing – usually provided on farm).

Stock Manager

  • Position description:Usually at least 5 years’ experience and responsible for staff management.  Will be able to develop, implement and monitor farm plans for livestock health, breeding and stock performance.  Produces regular reporting on farm activities, able to analyse information and make recommendations.
  • Suitable candidates:These positions suit candidates seeking to further develop skills towards Farm Manager level.
  • Typical working hours:These hours vary from farm to farm and season to season. A range would be from 55 hours a week (quiet periods) to 70 hours a week (e.g. during calving, lambing, shearing and docking).
  • Leave:Annual leave of 4 weeks a year plus statutory holidays (or days in lieu) plus rostered days off, which vary from farm to farm
  • Typical contract period:Usually minimum of one year (or longer)
  • Typical salary range:*$45,000 – $52,000 per annum depending on the region, size of farm and also on the level of New Zealand and other experience.

*These figures are before tax and other bonuses (e.g. meat, milk from farm) and benefits (e.g. housing – usually provided on farm).

Farm Manager

  • Position description:Usually at least 5-8 years’ farm experience and responsible for full management of farm.  Responsible for meeting farm goals, including all aspects of production, stock, environmental and staff management.  Will generally be involved in budgeting process but may not set the budget.
  • Suitable candidates:These positions suit candidates looking for a set career as a Farm manager or those wishing to progress to profit-sharing contracts such as an equity partnership with the farm owner.
  • Typical working hours:These hours vary from farm to farm and season to season. A range would be from 55 hours a week (quiet periods) to 70 hours a week (e.g. during calving, lambing, shearing and docking).
  • Leave:Annual leave of 4 weeks a year plus statutory holidays (or days in lieu) plus rostered days off, which vary from farm to farm
  • Typical contract period:Usually minimum of one year (or longer)
  • Typical salary range:*$52,000 – $60,000+ per annum depending on the region, size of farm and also on the level of New Zealand and other experience.

*These figures are before tax and other bonuses (e.g. meat, milk from farm) and benefits (e.g. housing – usually provided on farm).

Salary brackets sourced from 2014 Federated Farmers survey.