There is a shortage of 50/50 sharemilking jobs within the
dairy industry, which may prevent some dairy farmers from
pursuing their farm ownership dreams.
However, the ''transition to farm ownership is not dead, just
changing'', says Agfirst Waikato Ltd consultant/managing
director James Allen, of Hamilton.
A typical career path for dairy workers once had clearly
defined steps: from farm worker to farm manager and contract
milker, then to 50/50 sharemilker and then farm ownership.
Now, there are fewer 50/50 jobs available nationwide so
career-minded sharemilkers are looking at other options to
achieve their goals.
DairyNZ developer (people and business) Carolyn Bushell said
New Zealand Dairy statistics showed the number of 50/50 jobs
During the 2008/09 season, Otago had 98 50/50 sharemilker
positions while Southland had 154. By 2012/13, Otago had 65
and Southland had 145, she said.
For the same period nationwide, the number of 50/50
sharemilking jobs had gone from 2418 to 2229. However, the
number of variable order sharemilkers for Otago for the same
period had gone from 82 to 119 and from 161 to 217 in
Nationally, the number had risen from 1760 to 1951.
''Many previously sharemilking jobs have been absorbed by
variable order and contract milking jobs,'' Mrs Bushell said.
Mr Allen had studied the decline in 50/50 sharemilking
''The number of farms is decreasing through amalgamations and
that has continued for a few years,'' Mr Allen said.
''The corporate and equity partnership farms are tending
towards putting in contract or lower order milkers.
''Looking at Canterbury and Southland, there is a more
noticeable shift away from 50/50 positions to contract
milking and equity partnerships and also to more lower order
and contract milking jobs.''
An increase in average debt levels for both farm owners and
sharemilkers, and therefore higher cost per kg of milk solid,
could also contribute to the lower numbers of jobs on offer.
''Taking a larger 50/50 sharemilking position was still the
best option to consider. The next best option is larger scale
lower order job. They can pay rather well and should be
In addition to equity partnerships, sharemilkers should also
look at leasing farms.
''They get 100% of the milking income, but buy all the stock
and machinery and pay an annual leasing fee. The average
[fee] is about 20% of farm income just to lease land, which
''Some young guys are getting more creative and staying in a
small job but taking on a second lower order or 50/50 job.
''That is great for them and can work quite well but if we
are looking at 50/50 job availability, if someone has three
positions, that is taking away two from someone else.''
People could also look outside the farm for opportunities to
invest, including property rentals, Fonterra shares, support
blocks and run-offs,There were also large scale operation
Mrs Bushell said DairyNZ offered programmes for dairy farmers
and workers so they could decide the best way forward for
Programmes for dairy farmers and workers
DairyNZ offers several programmes for dairy farmers and their
workers. These include Biz Start and Biz Grow programmes,
which are designed to help identify goals and learn how to
effectively weigh the pros and cons of different options.
Other tools include Mark and Measure courses, which give
50/50 sharemilkers and owners an in-depth understanding of
business performance, planning and strategy, benchmarking and
DairyNZ offers budget templates and workshops, as well as
calculators designed to work out investment levels for
particular jobs, tool kits for managing conflicts and
decision-making matrixes to work out how a move or new
business structure fits in with the person's own values and
long-term goals as well as strengths and weaknesses.
- by Yvonne O'Hara