Herd manager

Herd manager

A herd manager manages the cattle herd on the farm, making sure they are well looked after, and works towards key performance targets, including environmental and financial goals.
Also known as herd supervisor, senior stockperson, assistant herd manager, stockman, stock keeper, farm supervisor, stockperson or herdsperson.

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.

As a herd manager, you can either work with cattle reared for meat (beef cattle) or milk production (dairy cattle). You’ll need to manage all staff working with the herd and regularly work together with the vets, advisers, and farm managers or owners.

You’ll also supervise less experienced staff and casual workers. As part of your role, you will recruit, train, and oversee the retention of new staff. 

You’ll make sure cattle have the right amount of food and track their growth and health by keeping comprehensive records, generally using computer-based systems. This will help meet high animal welfare and customer standards. 

You’ll ensure all your staff team work together to make sure cattle housing, fencing, and handling facilities are secure and safe to protect the animals. 

You'll need experience working with cattle and training staff on using and looking after farm technology, equipment, and machinery. You’ll also need experience with breeding livestock, looking after animals and the environment, health and safety, biosecurity, and a good understanding of how a profitable business works.  

The role is often very rewarding, with opportunities to work with other industry professionals to develop the business and make decisions that are good for animal welfare, the environment, and farm sustainability. 

You may need your own transport to get to work. 

As a herd manager, your responsibilities might include: 

  • Ensuring permanent and casual staff working with the herd have good working practices for health and safety, animal welfare, biosecurity, and environmental protection 
  • Making sure the health and welfare standards of livestock are maintained by feeding, watering, and looking after them correctly 
  • Making sure the animals’ living environment is clean and safe to prevent disease, illness, and injury 
  • Managing the administration of the animal’s medication and vaccinations and recording it correctly 
  • Helping​​ with dairy cow milking, depending on the size of the farm 
  • Ensuring all machinery and cattle-handling equipment are maintained and any reported issues are resolved 
  • Making sure all farm buildings and fixtures meet health and safety requirements to protect the animals from injury or distress 
  • Managing the recruitment of new team members and overseeing the training and Continuing Professional Development (CPD) of all staff 
  • Working with the farm manager/owner, farm vet, and other advisors to oversee cattle breeding, fertility, nutrition, and the herd management plan 

To work as a herd manager, you should:

  • Have a positive attitude 
  • Have excellent communication skills 
  • Be able to lead, inspire, and manage others 
  • Be able to solve problems and suggest ideas 
  • Be able to hand over tasks to others where appropriate 
  • Have a flexible approach and be able to organise and adapt your workload 
  • Be organised and able to plan ahead 
  • Be committed to helping the business improve 
  • Be keen to learn and develop 

To become a herd manager, you’ll need extensive experience gained over several years working with livestock, usually as an assistant and possibly as a senior herdsperson. You could decide to study at an agricultural college or university first, where you’ll learn about managing and rearing livestock.

Look out for industry farm training programmes, such as the Next Generation scheme run by the National Farmers Union, that can help kickstart your career. 

Reading farming newspapers, magazines, and websites will also develop your knowledge and understanding.  

You should expect some weekend/out of normal hours working. 

As a herd manager, you’ll be competent in all aspects of animal husbandry, including animal welfare, nutrition, and healthcare, as well as managing the environment. You'll support successful livestock production through: 

  • Managing livestock production to ensure the animals breed and give birth successfully
  • Ensuring the management of successful livestock husbandry 
  • Managing livestock production that ensures animals receive high-quality feed regimes that sustainably enhance production 
  • Managing livestock production that ensures the effective management of waste in line with legal requirements 
  • Ensuring the management of high milk quality if working in a dairy unit 
  • Managing production that ensures efficient milking to enhance business if working on a dairy unit 
  • Managing the production of high-quality cattle through the effective management of animal health and welfare to enhance the business 
  • Leading staff to achieve goals and be a highly-skilled, productive workforce by ensuring their wellbeing and motivation
  • Managing the business through knowledge and skills to ensure a clear strategy around the direction of the business, staffing skills, and relationships with external parties 
  • Updating knowledge and skills by participating in and continuing professional development activities

You can find more about the competencies for this role in each sector and how they map with our Capability Framework by downloading our competency profile documents below:

Beef/sheep herd manager competency profile

Dairy herd manager competency profile

Salaries are in the region of ​​£30,000 to £45,000, depending on experience and location. Many herd managers are also offered a house or housing allowance and use of a farm vehicle and mobile phone. 

This role is usually a full-time position. 

As a herd manager, you might choose to develop your career further by moving on to the role of farm manager. To do this, you will need to further your experience in mentoring or supervising other staff. You’d also need experience helping an overall farm business become more productive. 

You could also choose to move into other areas of livestock farming, such as working with different species, like sheep or pigs. Or you could specialise in a particular area of livestock health, such as nutrition. 

Courses which can help you on this career path include:

City & Guilds Level 2 Technical Certificate in Agriculture  

City & Guilds Level 3 Advanced Technical Certificate in Agriculture  

BSc Agriculture 


Livestock Unit Technician Level 3 

Assistant Farm Manager Level 4 

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.

Anyone considering working as a herd manager would find our Animal Health and Welfare, Biosecurity, Coaching for Staff Retention, and Foundations in Farm Safety courses helpful.

You can find out more about life as a herd manager on a dairy farm by listening to Ben Eagle's Meet the Farmers podcast, episode 163.

Return to our job profiles page for more exciting roles in farming and growing.