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What is it like to work on a dairy farm in NZ?

Different working holiday job roles in New Zealand are popular for different reasons – outdoor lovers for example might choose fruit-picking while the super-sociable fun-lover might choose bar work. One of the principle reasons dairy farm work is popular is because it allows you to make some money fast. Working weeks are long and farms usually located in the countryside which means there is neither the inclination nor the means to spend your money as quickly as you earn it. Additionally, accommodation and meals are typically provided although there may sometimes be a small fee charged.

Previous experience is not necessary to land a job in this sector – the country's most important industry. New Zealand farmers take on thousands of unqualified staff every year, most particularly during the all-hands-to-the-pump time of calving which typically runs from July/August to September/October. Farmers look for someone who likes animals, who is not afraid of getting their hands dirty and who can learn and adapt to the team.

Dairy farm roles include tasks such as milking, attending to and rearing calves, fence construction, monitoring cows about to give birth, moving cows around the farm, washing of equipment and driving quads/motorbikes/tractors. Those employed on smaller farms tend to do a bit of everything while larger farm workers may be assigned a specific role day after day. If variety is important to you you might want to be sure of this before committing yourself to a farm.

The working day tends to start at around 4 am and total weekly working hours can be around 50. Wages are usually a little over the legally set minimum wage and day-off patterns vary from farm to farm with six days on and two days off being one of the most common.

Besides the benefit of being able to earn and save money quickly the principal bonuses of dairy farm work are the chance to learn all kinds of skills along with living a very Kiwi lifestyle for a few months.