Managing your dairy career

You’ve done it! You’ve landed your first dairying job and you’ve made the first step towards building a career in the dairy industry.

Some people in the dairy industry are well known, even though many people have not met them. They have built a reputation, or image, through the things they have done.

Personal reputation can be both good and bad. You need to build yourself a good one. A good reputation is your biggest asset. It may lead to you being offered jobs before you start looking!

Building your reputation

How do you build a good personal reputation?

Ask your employer for their Code of Conduct and social media policies

These will help you understand what is reasonable and/or expected behaviour in a farm business. Some key things that are important are:

  • Taking responsibility for what you do
  •  Honesty
  •  Being respectful
  • Be professional in all that you do, and do what you say you will;
  • Have good time management skills, good communication skills, and be responsible;
  • Be good at your job and work at developing your skills and knowledge;
  • Treat other people as you would like to be treated yourself;
  • When you are working with and talking to people, show your enthusiasm and motivation, as this can be as important as your skill level;
  • Be careful how you portray yourself in social media, texting and emails. Remember, these are all public, and if you don’t want your employer (current and future) to see it, think twice about putting it up. It could come back to haunt you.;
  • Look after tools, bikes, etc.;
  • If accommodation is provided, look after it and keep it clean: respect that it belongs to someone else.

Beware of social media (Facebook, Snapchat, email, Twitter, YouTube)

Did you know making comments on social media about your employer and your workplace – even if you don’t name names – can be against the terms of your employment contract? Take extra care. Most importantly, do not use these pages to make a workplace complaint.

You should not say or do anything on social media that:

  • has the potential to bring your employer’s business into disrepute; 
  • gives away or discusses confidential information; 
  • could be viewed as derogatory towards or disparaging of workmates, customers or clients; 
  • undermines your effectiveness or productivity at work (eg, through excessive use)

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Goals and direction

It is important to know where you are going and what you are trying to achieve. It’s a good idea to have written goals and time targets to achieve them. When you are starting out it is often hard to know what might be possible. Write your goals down, regularly review them, and ask yourself:

  • Are these goals still what I want to achieve? 
  • Is my current job taking me in the right direction to achieve my goals?

If the answer to either of these questions is “no”, then you need to redefine your goals or adjust your direction. It is OK to do this. Few successful people knew exactly what they were wanted to achieve when they were starting out.

Having goals will help you identify if a new job will give you the skills and experience you are looking for, or if it is a step in the wrong direction for you. Having financial goals and budgeting can be the difference between getting ahead or going backwards.

Write your goals down & plan!

This way, your goals are more likely to happen and they are easier to review. And remember, sometimes planning your pathway may seem daunting, so break it into pieces and focus on each goal ahead, one step at a time! Stepping Stones is a great place to start – it will help you plan your pathway, has dairy farmer case studies, advice on dairy careers, progression and great tips from farmers.

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Managing your finances

It is important to have a financial goal in mind when you have a regular pay cheque. It will help shape progress in your personal and business life. Don’t forget to enjoy yourself along the way, but it is important to find a balance that suits you.

For example, Jason is a farm assistant in his first year of work on a dairy farm. He is paid under the Pastoral Award 2010. He works 152 ordinary hours in a month (equivalent to a 38 hour week) and an additional 12 hours overtime a month and 4 hours on a Sunday. He and his boss have agreed to a flat rate of pay which is calculated to account for all his work at the correct rate. This works out to be $18.46 per hour, or annual wages of $40,019 (as at July 2015).

Jason wants to save and to have some cash to spend. His budget this year looks like this:

Wages (per year)




After tax (per week)



Debt servicing (car)


Running costs (car)


Board & lodgings*


Mobile phone


Spare cash


Less savings


Cash available for spending


*These expenses can vary depending on type of position and may or may not include food, power and phone.

In this example, Jason has set himself a goal of saving $150 per week for future security. That leaves $212 per week for him to enjoy how he likes.

Compounding savings can really work for you. For example, if you save $150 per week, this will amount to $39,000 in just five years.  With the accumulated interest working for you during this time, the amount generated will be close to $44,000 (during five years, based on an interest rate of 5% per annum). Check out the compound interest calculator

This can then be used to purchase an asset, such as a deposit on a house or some livestock to start your own herd.

These figures are very broad and general, but it is important to realise that putting money aside early in your working life will help create substantial benefits down the line such as:

  • Establishing a reputation with others, such as bankers, lenders and employers
  • Enabling you to take advantage of possible future opportunities, e.g. purchasing stock or shares as an investment.

Managing money tips

Set up a simple budget and keep track of the money going in and out. You can track your daily spending using the TrackMySpend app –  Read more>>

Set up an automatic payment so that each month (or week) a portion of your pay goes directly into a savings account. There are a number of sites with excellent resources to help manage your finances. Try one of our favourites:

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Induction training (or orientation) is designed for you to get the information you need to get up to speed on how the farm business works. Staff induction often starts on policies such as safety, security, anti-discrimination, etc. Then you will be shown how things are done on the farm, especially the roles you will have.

During this induction or orientation time, you or your employer may identify areas where you need more training. This can be the start of your training program

There are many forms of training, from one-on-one, to short courses, to off-farm Diploma and Certificate courses. You should be paid for all your time spent on on-farm training and meetings.

You should be paid for all the hours you work

Not getting paid for working a trial isn’t okay. You can be asked to demonstrate a skill that’s needed for the job without being paid for it – such as written procedures. But trial shifts, probation periods and on-the-job training all need to be paid.

Off-farm training can be classroom-style, practical or a mix of both. Your employer may be willing to subsidise training for you, so it is a good idea to discuss options with them.
Courses on offer include:

Registered training organisations (RTO) also offer a skills recognition process. This is fantastic for employees who have lots of on-the-job experience – your skills could result in a formal qualification and a move up the ladder. 

Currently there is a minimal fee charged for this process in Victoria. The skills recognition process involves:

  • An information session;
  • A coach to produce a current CV and evidence;
  • Contacting a minimum of 2 referees with phone numbers to attest to dairy farming skills, knowledge and understanding;
  • A farm visit to gather evidence in the workplace; and
  • Comparing the evidence to industry standards and a making a professional judgement on formally recognising skills.

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More training information

Visit Rural Skills Australia for information about traineeships in agriculture.

The Federal Government’s Youth Portal website is aimed at young people aged 15-24, and provides links to a wide range of activities to support young people to engage with education and training.

MySkills Australia is a new online resource developed and maintained by the Department of Industry, Innovation, Science, Research and Tertiary Education that allows individuals and employers to access information about VET qualifications and training providers throughout Australia. Visit the site to:

  • Search for a training organisation or qualification
  • Find out about the training experiences of others
  • Access other useful training information

On this website:

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Work-life balance

Work life balance is the important balance between work and play. Too much work can make you tired, stressed and bored. Too little work can mean you lose focus, enthusiasm and money. The aim is to get enough work to keep you interested and enough leisure time to have fun.

There are some key tricks to achieving good work-life balance:

  • Use your annual leave. All permanent employees are entitled to at least four weeks’ annual holiday after a year’s employment. If possible, try to take at least two weeks per year off as a block.
  • Go off farm for some or all of your days off. Have non-farm related hobbies and interests (e.g. fishing, sport, going to the movies, shopping, gym).
  • Mix with people other than your workmates. Rural support networks can include young farmer activities, sports groups and teams and community groups.
  • Have work goals and personal goals and spend time on both.

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Getting support

The Young Dairy Network brings together young dairy farmers (18-40 years) and people new to the industry from the different dairy regions of the country. The network provides opportunities to develop your dairy farm knowledge and skills through discussion groups, farm visits, guest speakers and seminars on specific topics.

This is a great way to find out what is happening in your local area.

The network is driven by the locals, for the locals, to better set you up for your future. Local people and the dairy industry regional coordinators organise a range of activities to meet your needs. Check out the Young Dairy Network to learn more.