Sharemilker Kaiwhakahaere Mīraka Kau

Sharemilkers either milk a dairy farmer's cows for a profit share, or own a herd of cows and milk them on an owner's land for a profit share.

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Sharemilkers may do some or all of the following:

  • provide labour, shed costs, electricity and vehicles on farms
  • own, manage and milk herds of cows 
  • manage farming activities on behalf of farm owners
  • be responsible for calf rearing and cattle reproduction
  • negotiate profit-sharing contracts with dairy owners or farm companies
  • buy and sell livestock
  • follow health and safety and wellbeing procedures.

Physical Requirements

Sharemilkers need to have a good level of fitness as dairy farm work can be physically demanding.

Useful Experience

Useful experience for sharemilkers includes:

  • working with animals 
  • farm, forestry, engineering or labouring work
  • using technology
  • driving farm vehicles and machinery
  • managing a business.

Personal Qualities

Sharemilkers need to be:

  • confident and caring with animals
  • practical
  • hardworking and motivated
  • responsible 
  • willing to learn
  • able to work under pressure and in a team.


Sharemilkers need to have knowledge of:

  • sharemilking contracts and payment arrangements
  • dairy farming practices
  • accounting and business practices.



  • usually start early in the morning and work until late afternoon
  • may work long hours during peak times, and can work six days a week
  • work on farms and in milking sheds
  • work outside with animals, crops and machinery in all weather conditions.

Subject Recommendations

No specific secondary education is required for this job, but agricultural and horticultural science, digital technologies, maths and English to at least NCEA Level 2 are useful.

Sharemilkers can earn around $64K-$97K per year.

Chances of getting a job as a Sharemilker are good due to a shortage of people interested in this type of work.

Pay for sharemilkers varies depending on how much milk their cows produce and milk company payouts linked to global market conditions and the price of milk solids.

  • Sharemilkers usually earn between $64,000 and $97,000 a year.

Contract milking and variable order sharemilking

Contract milkers are self-employed and manage farms. They are paid on a negotiated set price per kgMS (amount of milk) produced. They also usually provide labour, shed costs, electricity and vehicles.

Variable or lower order sharemilkers are paid based on a percentage of milk income. The sharemilker and farm owner agree on what the sharemilker will provide such as labour, shed costs, electricity and vehicles.

Herd owning and 50:50 sharemilking

50:50 sharemilkers supply the herd and operate the dairy farm on behalf of the farm owner. They get 50% of milk income and all money from the sale of livestock.

Sharemilkers who own their own herd can earn between 40% and 60% of milk income.

Source: DairyNZ, 'Economic Survey 2017-18', 2019.

Sharemilkers may progress to other roles in the dairy industry such as:

Sharemilkers can specialise in a number of roles, including:

Contract Milker
Contract milkers pay for a percentage of the farm costs (without owning the cows) and receive a set price per kilogram of milk solids.
Variable or Lower Order Sharemilker
Variable or lower order sharemilkers manage farm property and are paid a percentage of milk income.
Herd Owning or 50:50 Sharemilker
Herd owning or 50:50 sharemilkers supply the herd and operate the farm for its owner. 

Years Of Training

There are no specific requirements to become a sharemilker. However, a relevant training course is recommended as dairy farmers prefer to work with trained or experienced sharemilkers.

A business, science or agricultural related certificate, diploma or degree in science, commerce, business or economics will help advance your dairy career. 


Apprentices earn while they learn and develop their skills and career prospects through on-the-job experience over two or three years. Apprenticeships are available through different dairy industry organisations and companies.