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Advice for new contract milkers | EP 06

Farmers stepping into contract milking in the new season should take time to celebrate the achievement and be wary of spending every waking minute on the farm.

That’s the advice from Danielle Hovmand and Sam Ebbett, who join us in our latest episode of the Federated Farmers Podcast to share their top tips for new contract milkers. 

Hovmand, Federated Farmers Waikato dairy vice chair, says she’d get off the farm more often if she could re-do her first six months in contract milking.  

“I finally got off the farm in November, going to Young Farmers events and discussion groups, and I thought to myself, ‘It would have been so much better if I’d done this earlier on.” 

Now 50/50 sharemilking near Morrinsville, Hovmand says in the podcast that part of becoming self-employed as a contract milker means learning how to look after yourself and manage your time. 

Ebbett, Federated Farmers Taranaki dairy chair and national sharefarmer chair, says learning how to take a break was a challenge for him too. 

“Even though I had staff, I worked every day. You need to take time off-farm and not work every hour the sun is up. Sure, it’s about doing what you have to do and doing it to a good standard, but taking some time for yourself is very important.”

Ebbett, now variable order sharemilking near Stratford, encourages new contract milkers to pat themselves on the back for ticking off a major career goal.

Hovmand and Ebbett go on to say that learning to communicate well is also crucial for new contract milkers. 

“Communication is key. If something arises and you’re not happy with it, have a calm discussion and figure out a way to come to some sort of agreement and get through it,” Hovmand says.

“Don’t let issues become a bigger problem because, when you do that, it starts to affect your day-to-day work.”

Ebbett says lack of communication is the biggest driver of disputes within contract milking agreements. 

“I’d encourage you to nail the communication from day one. No one likes surprises, so upfront it with communication and set a really good benchmark right from the first week.”

The pair also emphasise the importance of going into contract milking with a crystal-clear understanding of all the income and expense numbers. 

Hovmand recommends people use the DairyNZ Contract Milker Calculator.

Asked about the value of Federated Farmers’ contracts and agreements, Ebbett says they’re the best on the market. 

He encourages contract milkers – or any other farmers – to join Federated Farmers to gain the agreements at a big discount. 

He says having access to the free 0800 advice line as a member is also really helpful once you’re employing people as a contract milker. 

Hovmand and Ebbett conclude the podcast by sharing one thing they’d do again if they could repeat their first months in contract milking, and then sharing their piece of advice for listeners: one thing to do and one thing to avoid doing if you want to succeed in contract milking. 

Useful links: 

Federated Farmers contracts and agreements

Farmers Weekly article: ‘Contract milking: what I’d do differently’

Contract milking premium calculator - DairyNZ

Setting up in sharemilking and contract milking - DairyNZ