The industry, the farm, and the people: Who will own our dairy farms in the future?

Executive summary

Dairy farming in New Zealand has undergone rapid growth over the last two decades. Land values have increased. This increase in value is making it difficult for progression to ownership for many who are still in the industry. The total number of available sharemilking positions has been steadily decreasing, with an increase in owner operators choosing to employ Contract Milkers to run their farms. To reach the goal of dairy farm ownership, those in the industry are becoming creative around the pathway they choose for progression.

What has not changed during this growth of the industry are the people. Those who reach the goal of dairy farm ownership have key characteristics in common and when these characteristics are examined, they become keys to success.

For this study, rural professionals were interviewed, in a semi-structured format. These rural professionals were from reputable farm advisory firms and rural banks. There were four farm advisors interviewed and four rural banks, each giving their professional opinion on the progression to dairy farm ownership. A thematic analysis was then done on the results. Four dairy farmers were interviewed, using semi-structured interviews. These dairy farmers had progressed to dairy farm ownership in the previous five years, all using different methods of progression.

The results from these interviews were analysed with a thematic methodology. Results from the rural professionals’ and farmers’ analysis were compared and contrasted, to ascertain the common links.

Those who have reached the goal of dairy farm ownership in the last five years have all exhibited:

  • Determination
  • Respectable reputations
  • Sound financial ability
  • Knowledgeable and knowledge seeking
  • Been a part of a strong team

The pathway that they undertook to reach the goal of ownership differed between all the farmers. The pathway chosen was what was best suited their individual circumstance, rather than taking the pathway that the prior generation had travelled.

Recommendations for those who are starting out in the New Zealand dairy industry, with the aspiration to own a dairy farm, are:

  • Stay focussed on your goal of dairy farm ownership.
  • Be good with your money. If you do not know how then learn to be.
  • Maintain a good reputation.
  • Knowledge is power, always take opportunities to learn.

“You can’t solve today’s problems with yesterday’s solutions”


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