Looking to find regional work to extend your Australian Working Holiday visa? Working on a dairy farm is a great way to tick off your required 88 days and is such a unique experience. Having the chance to stay in this amazing country for another year is a fantastic opportunity and one I was definitely not going to miss out on myself.
If like me, you’ve never worked on a dairy farm before, there are some things that are good to know before you start. I’ve put together a handy list to help you get prepared and ready to go!
P.s. if you’re not quite out in Australia yet, I’ve got a great checklist to help you get everything sorted so you’re ready to go + you’ll get new post updates straight to your inbox. Just click to subscribe!
1. The days can be long
An average dairy farm day starts early, usually between 4-5am and the chances are your day may not end until 6 pm or maybe later. But this sounds worse than it is as, from my personal experience, farms are good at making sure you get a decent breakfast and lunch break. Depending on how busy the farm is, you might not have any extra jobs between morning and afternoon milking at all. Read more about an average working day on a dairy farm here.
2. It can be hard work
And I mean hard work. It’s heavy manual work and it can take a while for your body to get used to it. I used to ache like crazy when I first started working on a dairy farm but after a while, it gets easier. But don’t underestimate how much work there can be to do on a dairy farm and a lot of it involves heavy lifting and a lot of patience.
3. You will be expected to just muck in
It doesn’t matter if you’ve never worked on a dairy farm before, there’s not really the time to gradually ease yourself into so you will be expected to learn fast and crack on with the work. You will make mistakes- I certainly did, but you will definitely learn fast.
4. You’re probably going to get kicked
These animals are not pets and they are pretty damn massive. It’s so important to not get complacent around them and to learn when one is getting agitated. Sadly and painfully, you probably will get kicked and it will be over with before you even realised it’s going to happen. It hurts like hell and it’s obviously ridiculously important to keep your head away from them as much as possible.
5. Calves may be cute but they’re hard work
Awwww look how cute those little baby cows are. Yeah, you’re right, they are cute, but they’re also seriously hard work. Every calf that comes into the calf shed has to be taught how to eat from the feeder and that involves getting hold of them and holding them onto the feeder until they do it themselves. Then you have to make sure every calf is eating properly during each feed. Then you have to treat every calf that’s ill. It’s really not as simple as watching them prance around having a lovely time. They are babies and they really take a lot of looking after.
6. You will get shat on
There’s no avoiding it. Cows don’t care where they do their business and if your head’s in the way then so be it. The best advice I can give you is to keep looking up and hope for the best!
7. And you will get peed on
Same as above. enough said.
8. You will work with the most passionate people
Dairy farming is full on. There are no days off at all because the cows simply have to be milked twice a day every day no matter what. There’s also no such thing as a true clocking off time – the managers at the farms I worked at go out throughout the night to check on various things and then carry on working in the day. I think they are insane but the reality is they LOVE their job and they love working with cows. This kind of passion is infectious and is something I think a lot of us are aiming for in our careers!
9. Cows are very routine animals
Milking times are the same every day and the cows know this. They also know the procedure and if it gets changed at all, they can get kinda crazy. Just think of them as kids- start messing with their meal time and they’re not going to be happy. This is why it’s important to be punctual and learn quickly too.
10. The countryside views are stunning
One of the best things about regional work is having the opportunity to explore some of Australia’s beautiful countryside. I can honestly say that without my time working on a dairy farm I never would have seen some of the places I have, such as the stunning Limestone Coast in South Australia and taking a swim in the Murray River at Thompsons Beach. I wouldn’t have missed them because they’re not worth visiting, I just simply didn’t know about them. Working with locals who know the area is a great way to explore places off the beaten track.
11. It’s repetitive
Because cows love a routine, milking is extremely repetitive. You either spend the whole time putting the milking cups on however many hundreds of cows, or taking the cups off them. Calves need to be fed the right amount of milk every day too, so you will find yourself doing the same stuff day in day out, as with many other jobs.
12. It can be both physically and mentally draining
The job is labour intensive and you’re going to ache a lot, but as well as that, it can be a real mental battle. Being up and ready to work and get on with things before the sun’s even up can be tough and I regularly had to give myself little pep talks to get moving. As well as this, working with animals can be truly challenging and things do not always go as smoothly as you would like them too. But as I’ve said before, you will need to just crack on and get the job done. It’s a great sense of achievement when you’ve got through it though!
13. No one cares what you look like
For me, this is great. If I came to work with my hair and makeup done, everyone would think I’m losing my marbles. You’re going to get covered in shit, possibly kicked, calves are going to be sucking on your arms and you’re going to be hosing out shit from the dairy floor. NO ONE cares that you look a mess, NO ONE cares that you smell dead funky, and the cows certainly don’t care you’ve not got your best lipstick on. In a way, it’s pretty liberating!
14. You’re probably going to be in the middle of nowhere
Dairy farms cover a pretty huge area of land. The farm I worked on wasn’t even a particularly big one but the paddocks stretched on for ages. Because of the land space required to look after cows, dairy farms are going to be out of town. It’s important to, therefore, have your own transport otherwise you’re going to find it pretty difficult to get anywhere.
15. The sunrises are phenomenal
It will be pitch black when you get up but be sure to look up at the stars and take it all in. Then as the sun comes up, you’ll see the farm in a whole different light. I’ve honestly seen the most beautiful sunrises while working on a dairy farm, and to be very honest, normally I would never bother to get up to see it otherwise.