Employing & Managing People

Dairy is a dynamic industry requiring a highly skilled and capable workforce to support business profitability and sustainability in an increasingly complex operating environment. The increasing use of technology, the need to efficiently monitor farm inputs, animal care, milk quality and managing environmental credentials provides a unique opportunity for those seeking a diverse and professionally rewarding career.

As farms grow in size and complexity, understanding how to manage and lead people becomes even more important.

Farm owners and managers will not only need the skills for daily technical aspects of the business, but financial, risk and people/employment skills will be an even higher priority.

In addition to knowledge and capabilities, the behaviour and mindset of farm owners managers are crucial to thrive in a dynamic environment. Resilience, adaptability, data analysis, problem solving, innovative and strategic thinking are just a few of capabilities leaders on dairy farms require now and in the future.

Employing people

Dairy Australia provides support to farmers employing people in their business by developing and enabling access to resources for recruitment, managing staff and creating awareness of legal requirements through tools such as The People in Dairy website.

Dairy farm jobs board

Reach jobseekers by listing dairy farm job vacancies at dairyjobsmatter.com.au. List jobs for free by submitting an online form today.

Employment Starter Kit (ESKi)

The People in Dairy website provides a one-stop shop for employers to access supporting resources to effectively manage employees in their business. This includes the Employment Starter Kit (ESKi) resource which provides easy, online access to information, templates and resources to assist farmers to start employing people in their business. Farmers can be across the latest employment requirements by subscribing to email updates.

Access the ESKi resources at The People in Dairy website

Managing people during challenging times

Managing a farm team effectively is critical to the success of a farm business and is particularly important during challenging seasons or circumstances.

  • Look out for yourself and your team

    Resilience is the willingness and capacity to accept that there will be good and bad times ahead, understanding reactions to these experiences and putting strategies in place to manage these unforeseen events.

    Being able to discuss issues openly and seeking advice can enable dairy farm businesses to work through these unforeseen events, with an accurate factual assessment of the situation.

    Download the 'Managing your farm team' fact sheet.

  • Make time for an interest off-farm

    In challenging times, it can be difficult to think of anything outside what is happening on the farm. Having time away or off-farm, even for a few hours, can help clear the mind and allow farmers to make better decisions when back at work.

    This might be catching up with family and friends, sporting or community related activities, or being involved in a local group like the Young Dairy Network (YDN) or a discussion group.

  • Before employing people

    Challenging situations may impact on the future employment of people within a farm business. It is important for dairy farm owners/managers to keep the lines of the communication with staff so they feel informed and supported.

    Before doing anything:

    • Consider how staff can be rostered to ensure the owner/manager gets some time to rest, knowing the farm is being operated in a safe manner
    • Think about how staff expertise and hours can be maximised, as well as having adequate staff cover for leave and other events
    • Consider the employment arrangements and systems that are in place, including employee entitlements

    For more information, visit The People in Dairy website.

  • Reducing staff hours and redundancy

    Challenges in the industry may have an impact on the workforce and whether dairy farm owners/managers are able to continue to maintain an employee’s hours or keep them employed.

    Reducing hours or terminating a staff member is a very challenging situation that needs to be handled carefully and sensitively by the employer to look after the employee throughout the process and avoid problems in the future.

    Reducing staff hours

    There are a number of key things to consider when changing a staff member’s employment situation:

    • An employment contract cannot be unilaterally varied
    • The issue should be discussed with the employee, explaining the circumstances and whether an agreement on the reduction in hours can be reached
    • Staff are hard to replace and good staff are harder to replace
    • Any agreed reduction in hours should be in writing and include the reasons, be signed by both parties and kept with employment records
    • If the employee does not accept the reduction in hours, the only other option is redundancy

    Download the 'Reducing staff hours and redundancy' fact sheet.


    If an employee does not accept the offer of reduced hours, redundancy will have to be pursued.

    The 'Reducing staff hours and redundancy' fact sheet contains key actions to take when progressing a redundancy. All of the points are important and should be recorded in writing and kept with employee records.

    Failure to follow through with the requirements for redundancy can amount to an unfair dismissal as the redundancy will be seen as not being ‘genuine’.

    For more information on how to manage reducing employees hours or redundancy, visit The People in Dairy website.

Employment Policy

Dairy Australia provides insights and support to Australian Dairy Farmers and the Australian Dairy Products Federation to engage government in key policy areas that assist with attracting and retaining people to the industry and building skills.

Policy support includes the Dairy Industry Labour Agreement, changes to skilled migration occupation visa lists, and Designated Area Migration Agreements.

Case study: Employment and training resources crucial to building a team

Since making the leap into dairy farming, Luke Randle has not looked back.

The 24 year-old, who came into the industry via a high school work experience opportunity, says he is enjoying the challenge of managing a young team and was accessing Dairy Australia resources to build his operational and management skills.

“I lived in town growing up and was always interested in farming, but I didn’t think I would get to a position like I’m in now,” Luke says.

“I started working on a farm as part of work experience in year 12 and really enjoyed it. I was offered a job at the end of it and it’s all gone from there.”

Luke manages a team of six people, four full-time and two part-time, on the irrigated 650-cow dairy farm.

Over the past few years he has focused on building his skills through learning opportunities with GippsDairy.

“I hadn’t gone to university for formal education, so I looked for opportunities and I owe a lot to GippsDairy," Luke says.

"I’ve done just about every course they’ve run, and I encourage my team to as well.”

As a manager, Luke says Dairy Australia’s People in Dairy website was particularly useful to access employment resources like the Employment Starter Kit (ESKi) — a program he had also completed training in.

The ESKi contains the documents and information farmers need to start employing and managing people, such as a written position description, induction checklist, and employment contract that sets out employee duties, responsibilities and tasks.

“I’m on the People in Dairy website just about every week," Luke says.

"It’s a great resource – whether you are looking at keeping up with pay rates or employment regulations, it’s very useful."

Luke says everyone in his team is given the opportunity to take on additional training, with a Cups On Cups Off course being the one pre-requisite for prospective employees.

“The way we look at it is that we want to build people up," he says.

"We may lose some of these people from our business, but it’s about helping them become better people with more skills and go on to bigger things.”

Luke says he runs a roster where people have every second weekend off, creating flexibility for employees.

Daily communication and staff contact are important, with more formal meetings kept to a minimum and a Facebook Messenger group chat used for keeping the team up-to-date with daily operations.

Luke says his unique start in the dairy industry has made him open-minded about who is employed on the farm. All of the current employees do not come from dairy backgrounds and only one is older than him.

“For me, it’s all about how someone will fit into the team, not their age or if they’ve grown up in the industry. It’s about getting on and working as a team to get the job done.”

Templates to assist in managing staff


  • Induction checklist templatePDF116.48 KB
  • Employee contract templateDOC78 KB
  • Employee details templateDOC79.5 KB
  • Farm hand employee description templateDOCX22.85 KB
  • Payslip templateDOC41 KB
  • Calf manager employee description templateDOCX25.71 KB
  • Performance appraisal templateDOC51 KB
  • Roster templateDOCX34.08 KB
  • Timesheet templateDOC48.5 KB

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