Dairy Processing Operator Kaiwhakamahi Pūrere Hua Miraka

Dairy processing operators oversee the operation of equipment used to produce a wide range of dairy products such as cheese, butter, yoghurt and milk powder.   

Dairy processing operators may do some or all of the following:

  • receive and process milk/products coming onto the site
  • operate equipment to make and package dairy products
  • take samples of, and test dairy products
  • clean and sterilise equipment
  • identify ways to improve the dairy-product-making process.

Physical Requirements

Dairy processing operators need to be reasonably fit, as they spend long periods on their feet and may be required to lift heavy objects.

Useful Experience

Useful experience for dairy processing operators includes:

  • manufacturing work
  • work on a dairy farm
  • laboratory work
  • any work involving food handling and hygiene.

Personal Qualities

Dairy processing operators need to be:

  • patient and practical
  • efficient and organised
  • accurate, with an eye for detail
  • able to work well in a team or alone
  • able to follow instructions
  • able to keep accurate records.


Dairy processing operators need to have knowledge of:

  • milk chemistry and microbiology
  • how to operate dairy processing equipment
  • the types of dairy products they are making and the ingredients they need to use
  • how to properly clean equipment used
  • health and safety practices and regulations
  • food safety.


Dairy processing operators:

  • usually do shift work, which includes early mornings, nights, weekends and public holidays
  • usually work in dairy processing plants
  • may work in hot, cold or noisy conditions.

Dairy Processing Operators can earn around $50K-$60K per year.

Pay for dairy processing operators varies depending on skills and experience.

  • Entry-level dairy processing operators earn between $50,000 and $60,000 a year.
  • Experienced dairy processing operators earn between $60,000 and $70,000.
  • Senior dairy processing operators earn between $70,000 and $80,000, or more. 

Source: Primary ITO, 2018.

Dairy processing operators may specialise in:

  • running specific equipment in a dairy processing factory
  • making products such as butter, cheese or milk powder.

They may also progress to:

  • set up their own boutique factory
  • move into supervisory or managerial roles in dairy processing
  • move into other areas in dairy processing such as health and safety, project management, or logistics and warehousing.

Years Of Training

There are no specific requirements to become a dairy processing operator. However, a New Zealand Certificate in Dairy Processing (Level 3, 4 or 5) or a New Zealand Diploma in Dairy Processing may be useful.

It is also useful to have completed courses in any of:

  • engineering
  • food hygiene
  • food technology
  • science
  • project management
  • problem solving
  • leadership.
Dairy Processing Operator