Australian Dairy

Agricultural & Horticultural

The dairy industry is Australia’s fourth largest rural industry and is a major source of employment across regional areas, with approximately 46,200 people directly employed on dairy farms and by dairy companies.

Associated transport, distribution, farm services and research and development activities represent further employment associated with the industry.

In the last 12 months Australian dairy farmers produced 8.55 billion litres of milk, which is enough to feed and nourish just over 27 million people based on the average Australian intake of dairy per year.

Dairy regions

Australia’s 4,420 dairy farms are spread across eight unique dairying regions throughout Victoria, South Australia, New South Wales, Queensland, Tasmania and Western Australia.

Dairy and health

Dairy foods such as milk, cheese and yoghurt are naturally full of important nutrients such as calcium and protein, and provide some pretty important health benefits. In fact, the Australian Dietary Guidelines say that consumption of milk, cheese and yoghurt is linked to a reduced risk of heart disease, stroke, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome and colorectal cancer – some of the main causes of death in Australia.

Dairy and Sustainability

Australian dairy intends to be an integral part of the national and global effort to address the world’s biggest sustainability challenges. To do this, we have made a number of sustainability commitments to the community, our people, the environment and our animals. Our internationally recognised Sustainability Framework is our guide to sustainable dairy production, with goals and targets set for 2030, confirming our ambition to continue to make changes for the better.

A snapshot of the Australian dairy industry

Working on a dairy farm

Dairy farms can be exciting places to work with flexibility, variety and lots of opportunities. As an employee, dairy farming gives you a job that is outdoors, working with animals, machinery and other people. It also provides a great way to gain transferable skills that can start you on the road to owning your own herd, farm or other assets.

There are casual, part-time and fulltime jobs available on dairy farms. Whether you’re finishing school and not sure what to do next, keen to make some extra cash while you figure out your next move, learn a new skill, take a gap year or explore regional, working on dairy could be the career for you!

No two days are the same

A job in dairy can be flexible and full of variety, with no two days ever the same. Every day presents a new opportunity to learn, grow and contribute to a valued sector, and there are interesting things to learn along the way. A job in dairy offers flexibility in your day – to allow time for other hobbies, or education and training opportunities.

Some of the ways you can have variety and flexibility in your day include:

  • Shift work
  • Weekend only work
  • Casual relief work – jobs are available at times throughout the year (seasonal work)
  • Milking roles (farms have different milking schedules, some milk once a day, which gives you time to do other things in your day, while other farms milk twice or three times in a day)
  • Different farms have different schedules
  • Job share opportunities
  • Specific roles, like calf rearing that enable flexibility in the rest of your day

On-the-job training

There are different entry points into a career in dairy, from school leaver, or new career seekers. The sky’s the limit really, it can take you all the way to owning or leasing your own dairy farm.

You can receive training on the job and more formally – hear how these dairy farmers have learnt the ropes.

A rewarding career

Depending on your goals and aspirations, there are many opportunities to grow your career by undertaking various training courses and developing your on-farm experience.  Experience on a dairy farm can also lead to a rewarding career and pathways in many other industries.

Caring for animals

One of the best parts of a job in dairy farming is working with animals. Watch the video below of dairy farmers across the country talk about their love of animals and providing the best care, the variety of jobs on a dairy farm and how to work with future purpose.

Skills required to be a dairy farmer

You may have technical or other skills acquired from previous work experience that would be highly valued and easily adapted to a dairy farm. These are called transferable or portable hard and soft skills that can be applied from one job to another. Here are some examples.

Hard Skills
  • Working with livestock
  • Pasture management
  • Vehicle or machinery maintenance
  • Computer software
Soft Skills
  • Problem solving
  • Teamwork
  • Flexibility
  • Time management

Dairy farming salary and training requirements

Depending on your goals and aspirations in dairy, there are many opportunities to work your way up by undertaking various training courses and developing your on-farm experience, which reflects in your salary too. These are the current minimum pay rates under the award and your specific rate will vary depending on the farm you choose to work at. It should be noted that many dairy farm workers are paid above the award payments. For more information on potential salaries and training requirements download the Salary Matrix.

As a junior dairy farmhand, pay rates vary depending on age, starting at 16 years old and go up by 10% every year until you turn 20 years old. Check out how the pay structure works for junior employees in the table below.

Outside of your normal job description, there are other ways you can earn some extra cash. These will vary depending on the farm.

  • On the job training
  • Possibility of additional hours
  • Depending on the farm there may also be the opportunity for bonuses, above awards payments, a chance to build equity and accommodation

If you’re ready to explore a job in dairy, view current vacancies.

Discover people working on dairy farms

To discover stories of how farmers got into the dairy industry and what they enjoy about working on farm, check out the case studies below.

Meet Kyella McKenna

Farm Hand

“The most enjoyable parts of working on-farm for me are working with animals day-to-day, the rearing of calves as well as animal health and nutrition.”

“It is great to have learned about and actively take part in the various aspects to working on a dairy farm such as miking, working with the machinery and tractor work.”

“I believe anyone can do what I have done. I don’t have a farming background but took an interest in it and I’m now doing something I love.”

Kyella has worked on-farm for the past four years, two of those whilst completing VCE and two further gap years.

Meet Jessie Weaver

Dairy Farmer from Undera, VIC

Jessie Weaver loves working with cows in her role as a dairy farm hand. Hear from Jessie about the experience of raising calves and looking after them as they grow and become part of the herd.

Meet Travis Hall

Assistant Farm Manager from Wokalup, Western Australia

Travis ensures the farm is run smoothly and oversees casual employees. Travis’ has some insightful tips for those who are interested in starting a job in dairy.

Travis’ tips:

  • If you want to get into dairy, visit a farm and learn how to milk – it’s the basis of all dairy jobs and you can see if you like it
  • Show people how passionate you are – it opens doors
  • Keep your eyes open, read industry magazines and research: learn about cows, whether it’s breeding, feeding or new technology
  • Network and build a group of friends: I have a list of people – not just for helping out on the farm – but also if I’ve had a hard day we can catch up, talk and relax

Meet David O’Connell

Dairy Farm Manager

David O’Connell started his career in the army and saw dairy as an opportunity to take a new direction. Hear from David about how he progressed through different dairy farming roles.

Meet Pat Buckley

Farm Owner from Camden, NSW

NSW dairy farmer Pat Buckley is building his leadership capability by undertaking an online leadership course. Pat shares how developing effective communication through the course has benefited his farm team by ensuring they work together to achieve long-term business goals.

Discover a job on a dairy farm today

If you’re ready to explore a job in dairy, view current vacancies.

Connect with us

If you are interested in learning more about working on a dairy farm, you can contact one of our regional offices for more details.

Dairy NSW

Dairy SA

Dairy Tas

Gipps Dairy

Murray Dairy

Subtropical Dairy

Western Dairy

West Vic Dairy

There are currently no jobs available

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