Dairy workplaces of the future

1 September 2019

Callum Eastwood, DairyNZ Senior Scientist

What kind of workplaces will dairy farmers need to offer in the coming decades? DairyNZ’s been looking into it, explains senior scientist Callum Eastwood.

Dairy farmers around the world are struggling to attract and retain talented staff, and New Zealand is no different. It’s clear that our dairy workplaces must change – if not now then in the near future – to meet the evolving expectations of farmers and farm employees.

DairyNZ has been carrying out a New Workplace Design research project to learn what talented people are seeking in a job and what an attractive dairy farm workplace will look like  in 20301. We’ve used stakeholder workshops, interviews with

farmers and workplace experts, and design-thinking processes to uncover the major dairy workplace trends.

What have we found?

  1. New Zealand’s workforce is ageing, and will have a greater proportion of young Ma-ori, Pasifika and Asian people. There’ll be more part-time employees in future. As such, dairy workplaces must be designed to attract and embrace this diverse mix.
  1. Technological change is automating tasks, providing better information for on-farm decision-making and enhanced learning methods. Sensor and automation technology has already made an impact on Kiwi farms. Future dairy farmers will need to use novel technologies to their advantage.
  1. Job tenures will shorten and dairy employees will prefer variety in their careers. Farm workplaces will need to allow for people moving in and out of our sector, rather than fighting this trend1. Our future employees could include career changers, urbanites seeking a farming lifestyle, and casual employees. These people will quickly need to connect with farming values and understand that they work at the start of a food value chain.
  2. Casual or short-term ‘gig-economy’ work is becoming common, e.g. Uber. Farmers need to adapt their farm system, such as by changing milking time and frequency, to access ‘under- employed’ people who may work for  only parts of the day, or on certain tasks (e.g. non- physical).
  3. Demand is growing among farm staff for ongoing learning and upskilling through virtual and remote methods, e.g. short video Our research shows virtual interactions, such as Skype meetings, are already changing the way farmers and rural professionals interact3.

Find out more about this research at dairynz.co.nz/new-workplace-design

This article was originally published in Technical Series September 2019


  1. Eastwood, C. R., J. Greer, D. Schmidt, J. Muir, and K. Sargeant. 2018. Identifying current challenges and research priorities to guide the design of more attractive dairy-farm workplaces in New Zealand. Animal Production Science doi: 10.1071/ AN18568
  2. Dela Rue, B. T., C. R. Eastwood, J. P. Edwards, and S. Cuthbert. 2019. New Zealand dairy farmers preference investments in automation technology over decision-support Animal Production Science doi: 10.1071/AN18566
  3. Eastwood, C. R., M. Ayre, R. Nettle, and B. T. Dela Rue. 2019. Making sense in the cloud: Farm advisory services in a smart farming future. NJAS – Wageningen Journal of Life Sciences doi: 1016/j.njas.2019.04.004

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