Also known as dairy hand, milking assistant, assistant dairy person, dairy farm assistant, dairy worker or dairy farm worker.
This profile highlights the skills and knowledge associated with the role. However, jobs will have varying responsibilities depending on level of the role and the size or type of the business.
Milkers help collect the cows in groups from the shed or field at the same times each day and bring them into the milking parlour. You’ll be trained on the milking procedure, which can vary from farm to farm.
It’s essential that the milking parlour and equipment are as clean as possible. This is particularly important while you’re milking, as a dirty environment can allow bacteria to spread more easily. This can cause serious health problems for the cow, such as mastitis. Good hygiene is also important for food safety to ensure the milk is fit for human consumption.
Paying close attention to detail is vital for spotting potential health or welfare issues early.
Milkers must be flexible and willing to work outside the normal ‘nine to five’ hours. Some farms milk their cows more than once a day, although this can vary depending on the time of year and the type of operation.
There are also opportunities to work as a relief milker. This is where you provide cover over the weekend or to cover staff illness or holidays.
A milker may work as part of the milking team and usually reports to the farm manager. Once you’re skilled in the role, you may work unsupervised.
This role is a good entry point to the industry. It can be extremely rewarding as it provides the opportunity to learn a lot about cow health and nutrition.
You may need to have your own transport to get to work.
As a milker your responsibilities might include:
- Bringing cows in from fields and sheds and returning them after milking
- Operating the feeding system during milking
- Ensuring all milk is collected in a hygienic way
- Checking animals for signs of illness or distress and reporting when necessary
- Making sure the parlour, equipment, and cows' udders are kept clean throughout the milking procedure
- Washing down and sanitising the milking parlour after milking
- Always following health and safety procedures
To work as a milker, you should:
- Be able to spot and report problems
- Be able to work calmly, confidently, and patiently around animals
- Have a caring manner when working around animals
- Be reliable with good timekeeping skills
- Have a flexible approach to working hours
- Enjoy working in a team but also able to work on own initiative
- Be highly motivated and keen to develop skills and knowledge
You do not always need a formal qualification to work as a milker. Your supervisor or an experienced member of the milking team will often provide training on the job. However, you will need to be keen to learn and be interested in livestock.
You can also gain experience by volunteering on a farm or smallholding.
If you live in a city or urban area, you could volunteer on a local city farm, community garden, or allotment. You can find some of these in your area on the Social Farms and Gardens website.
It’s also helpful to have a basic knowledge of dairy cow diseases and health issues and how to help prevent them.
As a milker, you’ll have the following competencies to work to a high standard of milking. You will:
- Follow correct procedures to ensure good welfare, biosecurity, and environmental practice
- Follow the guidance for successful dairy production to make sure milk quality is high
- Follow farm protocols to carry out milking efficiently
- Ensure the relevant food hygiene standards of the milking parlour are always achieved
- Ensure the relevant health and safety standards are met
- Use the appropriate milking technology and equipment
Salaries range from £18,000 to £28,000. This amount can vary depending on level of experience and location. Relief milkers are usually more experienced and can expect an hourly rate of £10 to £17 per hour.
Full-time, part-time, and casual opportunities are available in the dairy industry.
Some dairy farm workers stay in their role as milkers as they enjoy working with cows and the sense of satisfaction they get from producing quality milk to high animal welfare standards.
However, it’s possible to progress your career to a supervisory role, such as a senior herdsperson, where you would manage the milking team.
You might find you want to specialise in other areas, such as cattle nutrition or genetics. These roles require you to have specific knowledge and skills that would require further study.
Dairy farm workers can also progress their careers in the wider dairy industry, such as feed sales specialists, pasture supervisors or livestock buyers.
Courses which can help you on this career path include:
Level 1 Diploma Land-based Studies Agriculture
Level 2 Technical Certificate in Agriculture
Level 3 Advanced Technical Certificate in Agriculture
TIAH Essential Skills
Our online Essential Skills modules can help you develop your skills and knowledge in a range of areas and are a great addition to your CV.