Farmers/farm managers are responsible for the planning, management and day-to-day running of farms. Farmers own the land they farm, while farm managers manage farms for farm owners.
Farmers/farm managers usually earn
$60K-$64K per year
Source: Federated Farmers/Rabobank, 'Farm Employee Remuneration Survey', 2014.
Pay for farmers/farm managers varies depending on experience, level of responsibility, farm type, and the profitability of the farm.
According to a 2014 Federated Farmers/Rabobank survey:
- sheep stock managers earn an average of $60,000 a year.
- sheep and beef farm managers earn an average of $64,000 a year.
Farmers who own their own property and stock may earn significantly more than farm managers, depending on the profitability of their farms.
Farm and stock managers may also be offered other benefits as part of an employment package. These may include:
- free or subsidised accommodation or housing
- free or subsidised power supply and telephone connections
- free or subsidised meat and other foods produced on the farm
- transport or petrol allowances
- some or all meals.
The average value of these extra benefits is about $4,850 a year.
Source: Federated Farmers/Rabobank, 'Farm Employee Remuneration Survey', 2014.
(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our pay information)
What you will do
Farm work varies depending on the time of year and the size and type of farm. Farmers/farm managers may do some or all of the following:
- attend stock sales and buy and sell stock, and manage stock breeding programmes
- provide food, care and shelter for animals, and check and treat animals for diseases and parasites
- muster and shift stock and/or hire and supervise workers such as shepherds and shearing gangs
- buy feed, machinery and other farming materials
- check that farming, machinery such as tractors, and systems are working properly, and make minor repairs
- maintain and clean farm buildings, yards and fences
- handle and train farm dogs
- manage financial and farming records, including the payment of farm accounts and tax.
Skills and knowledge
Farmers/farm managers need to have knowledge of:
- animals, including how to breed, care for, handle and feed them
- animal diseases and how to prevent/treat them
- farm and business management
- animal husbandry (care and breeding of animals)
- stock and pasture management (efficient use of paddocks and grasslands)
- how to build fencing, operate tractors and other farm machinery, and do general maintenance.
- work varying and sometimes long hours, depending on the type of farming and the season. Evening and weekend work is common during spring and summer
- live and work on farms
- may work in dusty, dirty, hot, wet, smelly or noisy conditions
- may travel locally or nationally to buy or sell stock or supplies, or to attend field days, conferences, and other events.
What's the job really like?
Business first and foremost
Napier sheep farmer Callum Thomsen says farming offers a great lifestyle, but you need to know as much about running a business as you do about caring for stock. "First and foremost it's a business, so if you're heading for a management or ownership role in farming, I reckon a tertiary education is a must."
Lots of sciences in one
Callum says doing a degree has made it easier for him to deal with the complexity of farming. "There are a lot of sciences wrapped up in the one occupation. You've got soil science, pasture science, and you have to know about finances and computers."
“It’s not like a regular job”
Callum says compensation for the long hours comes from the lifestyle that farming offers. "It's not like a regular job – it’s a fantastic quality of life. I enjoy what I do. If I'm working till 8 or 8.30 at night, it's because I want to do it."
And it's rewarding. "You get to see physical results for all the hard work you do. I know every fence line that goes up, every track or culvert or bridge that I've put in, and it's really satisfying."
Hannah and her partner, Jeremy Bright, talk about farming and opportunities - 2.08 mins. (Video courtesy of Ministry for Primary Industries).
Jeremy: I always had a passion for farming. I was originally from town and I had cousins who owned farms and I’d spend a lot of time in the holidays on their farms docking – a kid from town going and doing those sorts of jobs. I guess I just fell in love with it. Favourite part of farming? Probably dog work – mustering. I enjoy breaking in dogs and working dogs, and seeing dogs come up from pups where you’ve reared them to an 18-month, 2-year-old or older dog out on the hill and working for you.
Jeremy: Do you want to work those lambs in over there on the chicory crop? Then we’ll dag the dirties and run them through the dip.
Hannah: Yeah, it’s not a 9.00 to 5.00 job. On days like this it’s so hot and you can’t work your dogs in heat like this – it would just kill them. So, you’ve got to get up and you’ve got to go early in the morning or late at night when it’s cooler for your dogs. The stock don’t want to run in heat like this either so you’ve got to work your hours to make your life easier and not so much stress on the animals.
Hannah: Can’t just look at it as a Monday to Friday 9.00 to 5.00 sort of job. You’ve got to be committed to wanting to do it. You can’t lock your dogs in the wardrobe over the weekend and go away – you’ve got a lot to think about.
What being awarded the Ahuwhenua Young Māori Farmer of the Year Award has meant:
Hannah: Yeah, it was amazing. Just to be able to stand up there and realise, “Wow, I’ve made such a great achievement”. It has been awesome.
Hannah: It has given me a whole heap more confidence to actually want to go out and achieve my dreams, and to try and actually make a go of farming. There’s a lot of opportunities out there for people. They just need to grab them – and take every opportunity that they can.
Although there are no specific entry requirements for becoming a farmer/farm manager, a qualification in agriculture is highly recommended.
Farm managers should gain at least a national certificate in their chosen field – such as beef or sheep farming – to improve their employment chances.
For both roles you can gain a national certificate through one of the New Zealand agricultural cadet farms. The cadet farms provide a live-in, one-to-two-year training programme, combining theory and practice, which enables cadets to gain skills that make them work-ready.
Higher qualifications, such as diplomas in agriculture or farm management, are useful, and many farmers and farm managers complete degree courses such as a Bachelor of Agricultural Science or Commerce.
At least three years' secondary school education is recommended. Useful subjects include agriculture, maths, accounting, biology and science.
Farmers/farm managers need to be:
- confident and caring with animals
- willing to work hard
- independent and adaptable
- practical and responsible
- good communicators and managers
- well organised, with good planning skills.
Useful experience for farmers/farm managers includes:
- any type of farm or farm management work
- animal-handling work
- driving tractors and using machinery
- engineering work such as welding
- work as a stock and station agent – buying or selling sheep, cattle or deer
- managing others.
Farmers/farm managers need a reasonable level of fitness and stamina, as they spend a lot of time walking around farmland, tending to animals, and carrying out maintenance. Good health is also important.
Find out more about training
- Get Ahead
- (03)303 3054 - firstname.lastname@example.org - www.getahead.co.nz
- Primary Industry Training Organisation
- 0800 208020 - email@example.com - www.primaryito.ac.nz
What are the chances of getting a job?
Demand for farmers/farm managers has increased and job opportunities are especially good for farmers and farm managers with qualifications and experience.
Skill shortages in some specialist areas
The following farmer jobs appear on Immigration New Zealand's immediate skill shortage list:
- beef cattle farmer/farm manager
- dairy cattle farmer/farm manager and dairy cattle farmer/assistant farm manager
- pig farmer/farm manager or assistant farm manager.
This means the Government is actively encouraging farmers and farm managers skilled in these areas to work in New Zealand.
Cadet farms offer hands-on training and qualifications
Cadet farms throughout New Zealand, which are run as commercial sheep and beef farms, offer one-to-two-year agricultural training programmes and can be a good way for young people with little farming experience to get training and qualifications.
Farmers/farm managers can be employees or self-employed
Farmers are usually either self-employed and own their own farms, or work as farm managers for farm owners, private companies, or the Government's farm development agency, Landcorp.
- Federated Farmers, '2014 Farm Employee Remuneration Survey', June 2014, (www.fedfarm.org.nz).
- Immigration New Zealand, 'Immediate Skill Shortage List', 25 June 2018, (www.immigration.govt.nz).
- Macredie, D, project manager, Beef + Lamb New Zealand, Careers New Zealand interview, February 2015.
- Ministry for Primary Industries, 'Future Capability Needs for the Primary Industries in New Zealand', April 2014.
(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our job opportunities information)
Progression and specialisations
Farm managers may progress to a business/operations management role where they:
- are responsible for meeting overall business goals
- may manage multiple farms.
They may also progress to own their own farm. Becoming a farm owner depends on gaining a high level of practical and managerial skills, and raising enough money to buy a property.
Farmers/farm managers usually specialise in an area such as:
- Beef Cattle Farmer
- Beef cattle farmers breed, raise and care for beef cattle for meat and breeding stock.
- Deer Farmer
- Deer farmers breed, raise and care for deer for meat, velvet, hides and breeding stock.
- Goat Farmer
- Goat farmers breed, raise and care for goats for fibre, milk, meat and breeding stock.
- Horse Breeder
- Horse breeders breed, raise and care for horses for competition, dressage, eventing, showjumping, riding for pleasure and working.
- Mixed Crop and Livestock Farmer
- Mixed crop and livestock farmers grow some crops as well as breed and raise livestock.
- Pig Farmer
- Pig farmers raise and care for pigs for meat and breeding stock.
- Poultry Farmer
- Poultry farmers raise and care for chickens or other poultry to produce meat, and/or keep hens to produce table eggs (for eating) or fertile eggs (for hatching).
- Sheep Farmer
- Sheep farmers breed, raise and care for sheep for wool, meat and breeding stock.
Last updated 8 May 2019