What Does a Dairy Farmer Do? (Plus Dairy Farmer FAQs)

Updated 20 April 2023

Dairy farmers are hard-working professionals who do important work to produce milk and milk products for consumers. If you have hands-on farming experience, enjoy working outdoors and have the motivation, patience and compassion to work with animals, you may want to consider a career as a dairy farmer. Learning more about this career could help you determine if it's right for you. In this article, we discuss the answer to what does a dairy farmer do every day?, provide a step-by-step guide on how to enter this career and answer some FAQs about dairy farming to help you determine if it's something you want to pursue.

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What does a dairy farmer do?

The primary duty of a dairy farmer is to oversee the milk production process. They do this by caring for their cows to make sure they remain healthy. They also work to maintain their pastures and land so that the cows have a safe environment. Working as a dairy farmer can include many different duties including mechanical, administrative, and management tasks. The daily tasks of a dairy farmer might include:

  • milking cows, usually twice a day and usually using a mechanical milking machine

  • cleaning and maintaining machinery including milking machines

  • planning and managing the feeding of cows, including pasture feeding and silage or hay when grass supplies are reduced or unpredictable

  • managing the health of their cows, including reproduction, calving and calf-rearing

  • maintaining farm equipment and vehicles

  • carrying out general maintenance on the farm, including fencing, pest control and spraying weeds

  • keeping financial and administrative records of the farm's operations

  • employing, training and assisting people who work on the farm

  • working with vets, farm advisors and other professionals to ensure the farm's operations are as efficient as possible

  • keeping up to date with new technologies and techniques and following sustainable farming methods.

Related: 20 Jobs That Work With Animals (With Salaries and Job Duties)

What skills and knowledge are needed to work as a dairy farmer?

A dairy farmer uses many skills and a wide range of knowledge to do their job effectively. Dairy farmers looking to work independently might also require extensive hands-on experience working in agriculture. Many candidates have a prior understanding of the profession as they have family links to dairy farming or gained early experience working as a farmhand. Important skills for dairy farmers may include:

  • a strong understanding of animal welfare and excellent animal-handling skills

  • knowledge of the milking process

  • knowledge of pasture management and cattle-feeding

  • the ability to drive, maintain and possibly repair farm vehicles

  • an awareness of recognised milk standards and safe procedures for harvesting milk

  • knowledge of sustainable farm management techniques

  • business, administrative and accounting skills

  • management and training skills for managing farmhands and other workers

  • analytical skills to effectively assess and resolve any problems with the herd or milk production

  • physical fitness and strength to carry out the day-to-day tasks on the farm.

The personal qualities, or soft skills, a dairy farmer may possess or develop include:

  • a strong desire to work with animals and look after their welfare

  • confidence and care when working with animals

  • patience and adaptability

  • ability to show initiative and make decisions

  • ability to consistently follow a routine

  • capacity for planning and forward-thinking

  • ability to work well independently and as part of a team

  • interpersonal skills to work effectively with labourers and workers, consultants and other professionals.

How to become a dairy farmer

There is no formal path into a dairy farming career, but dairy farmers mostly require extensive hands-on experience working on a farm and with cattle. Many dairy farmers get into the business because they grew up in a farming environment and have knowledge of the industry. You can also take the first steps towards a career in dairy farming by completing a training program. If you have no experience working on a farm, you can get into a career in dairy farming by following these steps:

1. Do a traineeship in agriculture.

A traineeship is a training opportunity where you study while working. This opportunity can provide an introduction to farming practices and allow you to gain practical hands-on experience working on a farm while getting paid for your work. The training part of the traineeship includes core modules and elective modules, so you can choose the ones that are most relevant to dairy farming. You can finish your traineeship with a Certificate II in Agriculture to help you begin your career. This may be optional, but it can help you show potential employers your qualifications and technical skills.

Related: How to Get Into an Apprenticeship (With Steps and Benefits)

2. Look for a job as a farmhand or assistant farmhand

When you do a traineeship in agriculture, you usually spend most of your time working on a farm. Many farms choose to keep on their trainees as full-time farmhands once they have qualified, as they already know the ins and outs of working on that particular farm. If this isn't an option or you would like a change, you can also search for farmhand jobs on Indeed to help you find opportunities in your area.

3. Consider further training

Please note that none of the companies mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

Once you have successfully earned your Certificate II in agriculture, you could go on to study for a Certificate III or IV in Agriculture or a Certificate III in Agriculture (Dairy Production) to continue building your knowledge. You may pursue these at a local Technical and Further Education (TAFE) institution.

If you would like to go into business as a farm manager or even buy your own farm, you might want to consider taking courses in business, management or finance. To go into management, you may study for a Diploma of Agriculture. Alternatively, you can take a Diploma or Advanced Diploma of Agribusiness Management. You can usually do this while continuing farm work.

Related: Vocational Training: Definition and Different Types

4. Continue building your skills

As you continue working on a dairy farm, you can update skills and knowledge consistently. Most dairy farmers that run their own farm have many years of experience in farming. Once you have acquired the necessary in-depth knowledge, you might decide to buy your own farm or work as a dairy farm manager for a large agricultural company.


  • Farm Manager Responsibilities (With Job Requirements)

  • How to Write a Farm Worker Resume (With Template and Example)

Dairy farmer FAQs

Here are the answers to some commonly asked questions about working as a dairy farmer:

What can I earn as a dairy farmer?

Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organisation and a candidate's experience, academic background and location.

The salary you can earn as a dairy farmer depends on your level of experience, qualifications whether you work for yourself or for a company. The average salary for dairy farmers is $63,937 per year. If you own or operate your own farm, you may be able to earn more than this. However, self-employed dairy farmers may deduct the cost of labour, feed, fuel and other expenses to determine their yearly profit or salary.

What are a dairy farmer's working conditions like?

Dairy farmers work outdoors and in milking sheds on farms throughout the year. This means that dairy farmers work in all weather conditions. This might mean working in extreme temperatures. A dairy farmer's work environment might also be noisy and dirty. Dairy farmers work with safety protocols and procedures as they work closely with large animals such as cattle. These procedures ensure the safety of both dairy farmers and animals.

What hours does a dairy farmer work?

Dairy farmers usually start work very early in the morning, before dawn. The day usually starts with the first milking. Work might finish for the day after the second milking, in the mid- or late afternoon. Dairy farmers often work long hours, especially during peak times, and frequently work weekends and other unsociable hours.

Where do dairy farmers work?

There are dairy farms in all of Australia's states. However, most of the country's dairy production takes place in the South-East part of the country, where conditions are most suited to dairy farming. Most dairy farms in this area rely mostly on pasture feeding because the rainfall in coastal regions mean that grass growth is generally reliable.

What professional development is available for dairy farmers?

Even experienced dairy farmers can take courses and training to improve their skills and widen their knowledge base. This could include taking courses in farm business management, the science of feed and nutrition or animal welfare. Training opportunities include both practical workshops and discussion-based sessions.

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