Farm dairy requirements

If you're a dairy farmer, sharemilker, dairy farm manager, or dairy farm operator you need to understand and meet your legal requirements.

Legal obligations for farm dairies

A farm dairy operator is a person, company, or organisation responsible for some or all of the activities at a farm dairy. This may be one person or multiple people or organisations.

Farm dairy owners and operators have legal obligations and duties under:

  • the Animal Products Act 1999
  • Animal Products (Dairy) Regulations 2005.

Other people also need to know the legal requirements for dairy operations. This includes:

  • farm dairy assessors
  • Ministry for Primary Industry-recognised farm dairy risk management programme (RMP) evaluators and verifiers
  • other people and organisations who have an interest in supporting dairy farmers in the production and harvesting of milk.

Learn about the legal requirements for farm dairies:

Under the Animal Products Act, all farm dairy operators must operate under an MPI-registered RMP. The RMP must be verified by an agency recognised by MPI, and the farm dairy must be audited by a farm dairy assessor.

Find out more about developing and registering an RMP or using a template RMP:

RMPs for dairies

Agreements with RMP-registered dairy companies

In most cases, the dairy company you supply milk to is registered as the farm dairy RMP operator. To make sure you meet minimum food safety requirements, they issue you with:

  • a milk supplier's handbook
  • a milk supply contract or terms and conditions of supply.

The contract or terms and conditions of supply describe what you need to do to meet minimum food safety requirements. Companies may set out extra requirements to meet:

  • the requirements of specific countries they're exporting to
  • other legal and commercial obligations.

Harvesting milk for multiple activities

Your RMP for milk harvesting activities must cover all intended uses of the milk you harvest. For example, if you supply some of the milk to a manufacturing company such as Fonterra or Westland and you retain some to manufacture products such as cheese on your own farm, you need to cover this activity in your own RMP.

The RMP owned and managed by the manufacturing company may not meet all of your regulatory requirements. If you're not sure whether you need your own RMP, contact us:


Design and operation of farm dairies

If you produce raw milk, including colostrum, that's intended for further processing, you need to comply with a code of practice (COP) for the design and operation of your dairy. The COP sets out the requirements for farm dairy operators as well as anyone involved in:

  • design and construction of farm dairies
  • supply and maintenance of equipment
  • supporting activities at the farm dairy.

Read the COP for the design and operation of farm dairies:

NZCP1: Design and operation of farm dairies [PDF, 1.1 MB] 

Assessment of farm dairies

All farm dairies must have an RMP that describes the system for assessing the farm dairy. NZCP2: Code of practice for the assessment of farm dairies sets out the requirements and procedures for assessing farm dairies. 

If you're a farm dairy assessor, farm dairy RMP verifier or RMP operator, this COP may also apply to you. RMP operators may use this COP to meet their farm dairy assessment obligations, or develop their own system or protocol. Any self-developed assessment system needs to be evaluated as part of the RMP. 

Read about the COP for assessing farm dairies:

NZCP2: Code of practice for the assessment of farm dairies [PDF, 597 KB] 

Farm dairy assessment and support during COVID-19 alert level 3 and 4

Farm dairy assessments are to proceed as scheduled but with the following additional precautions in place.

  1. Farm dairy operators will be:
    • contacted prior to the assessment and advised that the assessment is scheduled to go ahead;
    • advised of the additional precautions to be followed by the assessor, including washing, drying and sanitising of hands and equipment;
    • requested to have any required paper work available at the dairy, noting (4) below; and
    • advised that it is preferable that they are not present at the dairy during the assessment, but that they remain available by phone. If they insist on being present or are required due to unexpected circumstances to be present, then the assessor will maintain an appropriate distance of at least 2m throughout the assessment.
  2. To the greatest extent practical, farm dairy assessors should complete the documentation and records aspects of the assessment remotely, either prior to or post the audit (e.g. to follow-up on information expected but not available at the time of the on-farm component of the assessment). As this is not standard practice there may be a delay in providing the findings of the remote assessment to the farm dairy operator.
    Note that the farm dairy assessor undertaking the remote assessment aspects and the farm dairy assessor doing the on-farm component do not need to be the same person.

  3. Farm dairy assessment schedules are to be organised to allow farm dairy assessors to return to their home each day unless this is unavoidable and the farm dairy assessor agrees.

  4. If a farm dairy assessment cannot proceed because the farm dairy operator refuses to allow the farm dairy assessment to proceed then the farm dairy operator is to be advised that:
    • remote assessment of records, procedures and other documents may be required at this time;
    • the farm dairy will receive two full farm dairy assessments in the 2020/21 season, with one in spring and one in autumn; and
    • in some circumstances MPI may direct an animal products officer to undertake an assessment.
  5. Other food safety related on-farm activities such as grade assistance, antibiotic testing etc. is also an essential service and must proceed in line with the precautions above.

This situation is changing quickly, and the advice above will be updated when required.

If you have any questions about these requirements email

Verification of farm dairy risk management programmes

The harvesting, filtering, cooling, and storage activities at farm dairies must be covered by an appropriate RMP. Independent verification of the RMP by an MPI-recognised verifier is one of the key methods used to confirm that:

  • the RMP is fit for purpose
  • the measures applied by the RMP are adequate and practical
  • the RMP operator is applying the RMP effectively.

Verification will also determine whether the farm dairy operators covered by the RMP are meeting their obligations.

The MPI guidance document Farm dairies RMP verification describes the role of verification and aspects that are specific to farm dairies and farm dairy RMPs. The guidance also clarifies the role of RMP verification as opposed to farm dairy assessment. 

Farm dairies RMP verification guidance document [PDF, 512 KB]

Using chemicals in a farm dairy

Chemicals used in the farm dairy, including detergents and sanitisers, must be approved by MPI. They are sometimes known as maintenance compounds.

The label should state that the chemical has been approved by either MAF, NZFSA, or MPI for use in farm dairies.

See the full register of approved dairy maintenance compounds:

Register of approved and recognised dairy maintenance compounds [XLSX, 971 KB]

MPI register of alternative premises and equipment designs for farm dairies

Premises (including animal housing), facilities, equipment, and essential services must meet the requirements of NZCP1: Design and operation of farm dairies.

However, Clause 3.10: Alternative premises and equipment designs of the COP enables new technologies and novel designs to be assessed on the basis that they are often complete systems and may not have been contemplated when the COP was drafted.

Application form: Novel technologies: Alternative premises and equipment designs [PDF, 321 KB]

Procedure for approval of novel technologies, alternative premises and equipment designs [PDF, 75 KB]

Novel technologies and alternative premises and equipment designs that do not meet the requirements of NZCP1 are considered suitable if they have been assessed, confirmed as acceptable, and listed on MPI's Register of Alternative Premises and Equipment Designs for Farm Dairies.

Register of alternative premises and equipment designs for farm dairies [XLS, 49 KB]

The listing will state:

  • whether the designs and technologies have been assessed by MPI as suitable for the specified purpose
  • any conditions on use or operating considerations that apply
  • any restrictions on location, construction, installation or use that have been imposed
  • whether the listing is provisional (for example, to facilitate on-farm trials), on hold (awaiting further data before a determination can be made), approved (accepted as a suitable alternative) or declined.

Before they commit to any novel technology, new premises, facilities, equipment, or services design, farm dairy operators should consult this register, along with their farm dairy assessor and dairy company representative.

Contaminated milk

If you're concerned that milk in your bulk milk tank may be contaminated in any way, you must:

  • advise your dairy company immediately
  • remove the milk from the vat as soon as possible.

Milk in the bulk milk tank is assumed to be safe, suitable, and available for collection unless steps have been taken to disable collection – for example, if there is a lock on the vat and clear signage near the vat outlet that the milk is not for collection.

Guidance for the collection of raw milk not intended for supply [PDF, 156 KB]

MPI testing for contamination

As well as the routine testing of tankers and individual farm milk supplies by dairy companies, MPI operates a national programme to monitor chemical residues and contaminants in milk on farms. This programme screens for more than 300 compounds. Any detection of chemicals above acceptable limits has serious consequences for both the individual supplier and the company processing the milk.

Find out more about MPI's programme for monitoring and testing milk:

National Chemical Contaminants Programme (NCCP)

Harvesting milk for raw milk products

There are extra requirements for farm dairies intending to supply raw milk for dairy products. Your RMP must address these measures so that it covers raw milk for the manufacture of raw milk products.

Read the requirements for raw milk supply:

Animal Products Notice: Raw Milk Products Specifications [PDF, 304 KB]

A COP can help you meet the requirements of the Notice. An RMP or RMP amendment that follows the provisions of the COP is likely to move smoothly through evaluation and registration.

Dairy – Additional measures for raw milk products COP [PDF, 175 KB]

Food safety risks in raw milk

If you're a processor interested in raw milk products, learn about the potential hazards from pathogens in raw milk produced in New Zealand:

Consideration of on-farm provisions for raw milk production [PDF, 196 KB]

Find out how to manage health risks associated with raw milk:

Selling raw milk to consumers

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