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Farmer and Farm Manager

Note: Completion of a TAFE SA course does not guarantee an employment outcome. Formal requirements other than educational qualifications (eg licensing, professional registration), may apply to some occupations.

Job Prospects Openings 5 years to November 2019: Crop 5,001 to 10,000 / Livestock 10,001 to 25,000 / Mixed Crop & Livestock: < 5,000
Salary Range Median weekly earnings: Crop $1051 to $1300 / Livestock $921 to $1050 / Mixed Crop & Livestock: $921 to $1050 to Source: Australian Government Department of Employment 2015
Brief A career as a farmer or as a farm manager combines an active outdoor lifestyle with the opportunity to use your organisational, planning and management skills.

There are approximately 20,200 farmers and farm managers working in South Australia. The average work week is 57.5 hours compared to 42.1 hours per week for other occupations. Majority of farmers and farm managers work in the Aquaculture, Forestry and Fishing Services industry. Most persons in this occupation are males with the main age group being 45-54 years.

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TAFE SA courses that may be relevant for: Farmer and Farm Manager

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The role of a farmer or farm manager involves both carrying out the actual work of growing crops or producing livestock in addition to any associated office and administrative duties. Farmers are usually landowners and whilst the opportunity of owning vast tracts of land is not available to everyone, many people have developed intensive production systems on quite small blocks, which are within reach of many people after a period of time in the industry. Farm managers are generally responsible for the running of an entire enterprise or specific sections such as a piggery or cropping program. Their duties are typically extensive and varied.

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Education Requirements

There are 14% of farmers in South Australia have Certificate III or Certificate IV, and 6% have Advanced Diplomas or Diplomas. Whilst 67% have no post school qualifications, it is highly recommended that you gain the available qualifications to have the best possible opportunity of entering this occupation.

For further information on how to obtain a traineeship position, please contact the New Apprenticeships Hotline on 1800 673 097.

TAFE SA offers courses relevant to this occupation including the Diploma and Advanced Diploma of Agriculture. Pathways include the Certificate II in Agriculture or Rural Operations, Certificate III and IV in Agriculture, Certificate III in Agriculture (Dairy Production) or Pork Production.

The University of Adelaide also offers the following courses: Diploma of Agricultural Production, Bachelor of Science (Agricultural Science), Bachelor of Agriculture, Bachelor of Science (Animal Science).

Career Path

There are currently a number of changes taking place in the farming sector and because of these, the ability to adapt is critical. To use a farming metaphor, changes in technology and competition will separate the wheat from the chaff and while employment prospects will be good for those farmers and farm managers who can keep up with the changes, for those who cannot, opportunities will be more limited.


Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing


Laura Fell – Management
“I have emerged as a more confident and capable businesswoman.”
Laura is a farmer, raising meat chickens under contract in a small business enterprise with her husband Ron. In 1998 Laura was elected as Chair of the SA Farmers Federation Chicken Meat Group and became a director of the Australian Chicken Growers’ Council Ltd, with heavy responsibilities in leading state and national contract growers through very turbulent times. “I soon recognised that I needed rapid access to quality, up-to-date business management information in order to properly discharge the duties required by a holder of these positions,” she said.

Despite having no tertiary education, Laura contacted TAFE’s Graduate Certificate in Management coordinator John Luker, to discuss possible pathways to achieving the daring goal she had set for herself to gain the Master of Business Administration. “John was patient, understanding of my fears that I was setting impossibly ambitious goals and he encouraged me to enrol in the Graduate Certificate course,” she said.

Throughout the course Laura gained confidence and sound, practical education in business principles. “The guidance and encouragement of the lecturing team was of inestimable value in enabling my education,” she said. “I have emerged as a more confident and capable businesswoman.”

Achieving the Graduate Certificate encouraged Laura to undertake further studies in the Graduate Diploma in Business at the University of South Australia and continue on with the Master of Business Administration. “When discussing the Graduate Certificate in Management with John Luker, I had no inkling how undertaking these studies would serve, along with my various activities, to catapult me into a very much broader appreciation of business and its global perspective,” she said.

Laura now holds numerous positions and affiliations and was also recently runner up for the Rural Woman of the Year Award for 2004. “The knowledge I have gained during these studies has played a large part in enabling my metamorphosis from small business operator to innovative thinker in a global business environment.”

Nature of the Job

Some of a farmer's or farm manager's tasks might include rotating livestock in paddocks, removing the tails of lambs, mustering, drenching, dipping and shearing sheep. You are also likely to be preparing animal food, controlling pests and weeds, repairing farm buildings, yards and property as well as maintaining financial and farming records. Farmers and farm managers also manage pasture and stock breeding programs, buy and sell stock, machinery and farming materials and hire and supervise other farm staff.

You will need to be adaptable and versatile, as you will be expected to carry out practical farm skills as well as maintain financial records and develop comprehensive short and long term property management strategies. Organisational skills and the ability to plan ahead are also important, as farmers and farm managers have to apply different strategies to protect themselves from unpredictable changes in the market for agricultural products. Such strategies might include carefully planning the combination of crops grown, so that if the price of one crop drops, sufficient income can be yielded from other crops. In some cases, livestock can be kept and crops stored, in order to take advantage of better prices at a later time.

Typical Physical Working Environment

Farmers and farm managers need to possess a wide range of skills from the practical ability needed to weld, repair and operate a range of equipment and tending to livestock needs, to the management skills or organising resources, budgeting and marketing produce. It is not an easy job, but definitely a rewarding one according to those in the industry. Computing skills are also desirable, as many farmers and managers now use computers to keep records and to manage farm operations such as breeding.

Typical Occupational Example

Much of the work a farmer or farm manager does is outdoors and they are often exposed to harsh climatic conditions. A farmer's working day starts early in the morning and its fairly usual to work during the weekends. Hours vary and you can be working for as many as 18 hours a day during the busy months. The work can also be hazardous and carries a risk of injury from machinery. For this reason, an awareness of farm safety practices is important and it is essential to be always alert on the job.

''As a farmer or farm manager, you will have the opportunity to work in regional South Australia from the North to South. Whilst a remote lifestyle may not suit everyone, there are real advantages to country living. It is a much freer and informal way of life and whilst there are really busy periods, the pace of everyday life is somewhat slower and more relaxing,'' says a SA Primary and Industries Training Council's Project Officer.

Agri-Food Skills Australia
Phone: (02) 6163 7200

South Australian Farmers Federation
Phone: (08) 8410 7233

Rural Skills Australia
Phone: 1800 647 798

Earning Potential

The earnings of a farmer or farm manager are extremely variable and depend upon the type of farm, level of experience and responsibilities and, perhaps most importantly, the farm's productivity. Starting salaries for farm managers range from around $17,000 to $40,000 per year, while more experienced (and typically older) farm managers and farmers sometimes earn up to $80,000, or more. There may also be other benefits such as free housing, food products and the use of a vehicle.

Further Information

For further information about all TAFE SA Courses, phone 1800 882 661 or enquire online