Life on a dairy farm in New Zealand

Recently, I’ve been sorting through our endless travel photos and backing up our memories. Whilst doing this, I became inspired to write about what it’s like to be a traveller on a New Zealand dairy farm.

Have you ever thought about going travelling? It is hard to know how you would fund yourself after several months on the road isn’t it? I’d love this post to help you and inspire you. It is all well and good saving your heart out before you step foot on your first flight, but what happens when you are bitten by the travel bug? What happens when your savings start to dwindle, but you want to catch a flight to Fiji for some tropical paradise?

We were lucky enough to line up a job before we even set foot on New Zealand soil. We knew we wanted to travel a few countries before arriving in Auckland, so we spent a few days job hunting in Singapore using online resources. As we are a travel couple, it is difficult to find two jobs with the same employers. We found a job on a dairy farm and they required a nanny to care for their two little girls. They also required a dairy farmhand which was perfect for us! After a successful Skype interview the job was ours. We found these jobs on the New Zealand backpacker job board. This site is well worth a visit if you are looking for a temporary job (a few months or so).

After landing in Auckland, we explored the city for a few days and then flew south to Christchurch. Our new employers collected us from the city and took us back to the farm. This worked out really nicely. If you discuss your travel plans with your new employers, you will probably find they are very accommodating.

I won’t go into too much detail, but unfortunately this job did not work out for us. The issue with starting any new job is you never know who your employers actually are. You are interviewed and questioned, but you can’t really get to know who you are signing a contract with. It is very sad that some people take advantage of the term ‘backpacker’, and will not think twice at paying you $100 a week to be on call 24/7.

Please don’t be discouraged though, it is important to remember that this can happen in any job not just whilst backpacking. We moved on fairly swiftly as my mental health had severely plummeted. We checked the NZ backpacker job board again and found a perfect job for us further south. The listing required two backpackers, preferably a couple, to assist as relief milkers on another dairy farm. We sent them a detailed account of our farm work experience and a day later the job was ours.

Talking about experience, I think it is important to be honest when applying for farm roles. If you haven’t had any experience, make sure that you inform potential employers of this. Let them know that you are eager to learn new skills and have an interest in the role. At the end of the day, you don’t want to show up on your first day, having lied about your experience, and be thrown in the deep end.

We allowed ourselves a few days to travel south in our camper-van (Audrey). It was really refreshing to give ourselves a mini holiday before started our next role. We took a trip into the mountains, enjoyed a day on the snow and relaxed at several of our favourite free camping spots near Queenstown.

Upon arriving at our new job in Orepuki, Southland, we were welcomed into our new home. We were renting a 3 bedroom house which overlooked the breathtaking south coast and Fiordland National Park. We commented that we would probably never live in a house with a view like that ever again. It was spectacular. The house was outdated and needed renovating but it was comfortable and cosy. We had everything we needed and a nice fresh start.

We got stuck into our work and the months flew by. Our new employers were so kind to us. They frequently stocked our freezer with fresh meat, invited us to their place for meals and took us into the city for dinner. It was nice to find such lovely people to work for after our first New Zealand jobs had ended so badly.

Our roles on the new farm were identical. We each had our own tasks to complete daily to ensure the smooth running of the farm. We started work at around 4.30am and commenced the morning milk. I would round up the cows on the quad bike, whilst Alex prepared the milking shed. We were lucky to have a routine which included a couple of later mornings each week. On the days we started later, we were on the afternoon milk which meant we could start work between 8.30-9 am. Inbetween milks, we would feed calves, fix things around the farm, spray weeds in the paddocks and move and fit irrigation systems.

I will say that it was sometimes hard work, especially when the early mornings start to catch up with you. Although, imagine spending every day outside with nature. Imagine seeing the sunrise almost every day. Alex and I used to take it in turns to admire the sun rising over the milking shed, it was magnificent. I remember riding around on the quad bike through the paddocks, admiring the sensational views around me. My heart was so happy.

Dairy farming isn’t exactly very pretty, sometimes you literally have to “shovel shit”. If you try to seek out the positives in everything it can be one of the most rewarding jobs you will ever do.

We spent our evenings snuggled up by the fire enjoying delicious home cooked meals. Some nights we’d head to the beach with a couple of beers and watch the sunset. We even took the quad down to the beach for a spot of sea fishing!

We were so lucky to be live in that house overlooking the glorious Te Waewae Bay and Monkey Island Beach. The memories we created whilst working on farms are equally as special to us as the time we spent on the road.

If you’d like to know more about finding jobs whilst travelling, feel free to drop me a message, I’d love to have a chat.

Thank you for reading

Love Travel and Coffee

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