Professional development for dairy farmers


There’s an old saying “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Dairying is one of New Zealand’s oldest and most established industries, but it’s evolving constantly, and fast! While you don’t need to be at the forefront of all the latest technology and techniques, it does pay to be up to date. That’s why, every once in a while, it’s good for yourself and/or your staff to do a bit of training or professional development. Dip back in and learn what’s changed.

Benefits of upskilling:

  • Remain competitive
  • Futureproof your career and/or business
  • Gives you options and opens opportunities
  • Makes you more valuable
  • You may even discover a new passion

Where to get training/courses

A quick Internet search will turn up a number of tertiary institutions offering some form of qualification in agriculture but the two most reputable and specialised in this area are Lincoln University in the South Island and Massey University in the North Island. Other institutions’ courses are almost always aimed at those just starting or wanting to start a career in dairying or just looking for a taster, where as Massey and Lincoln’s offerings are much more in depth; Massey University offers a Master of Dairy Science and Technology, while Lincoln facilitates a number of Bachelor and Postgraduate degrees in Agriculture and Agricultural Science.

A degree may be a bit more professional development than you are looking for. There are also training providers delivering shorter, specialised courses. For example, Primary ITO offers qualifications and short courses in over 30 primary industries including dairy farming. They have courses designed for those wanting to start out in dairy, farm assistants and herd managers right through to farm managers and business/operations managers. The variety of subjects you can upskill in include feeding, breeding, animal health, milk harvesting, safety, vehicles and machinery, staff management and agribusiness management just to name a few.

Primary ITO’s courses are designed mainly for those already in the industry/employment; some training happens off site but a lot you’ll be able to do on the job. The courses take a number of months and are reasonably priced but you may also be interested in their short one-day courses. They also have a service where they will come to your business and train your staff.

Health and Safety

While not all courses will be relevant to you and your business, there is one area that it is vital we are all in the know and up to date - health and safety.

Whilst there aren’t formal training courses as such, you can arrange a level of on-farm training through companies like On Farm Safety New Zealand where they work with you to set up appropriate procedures and systems.

There are also excellent resources available at Saferfarms.org.nz. This is run by Worksafe NZ and ACC and is a dedicated website for farmers to get clear health and safety advice and info. Set up to address the unsustainable high level of workplace injuries and deaths on New Zealand farms, on this website you’ll find guides covering all the key elements of farming: vehicles, animals, chemicals machinery and equipment, and people.