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Agricultural Operations and Services

Overview

This page provides information and data on Agricultural Operations and Services, which is one component of the Agriculture industry. Industry sub-sectors include:

  • Livestock farming
  • Agricultural support services
  • Agricultural irrigation
  • Agricultural chemicals
  • Agrifood operations.

Nationally recognised training for Agricultural Operations and Services is delivered under the AHC – Agriculture, Horticulture and Conservation and Land Management Training Package, which is managed by the Agriculture and Production Horticulture IRC. Qualifications in this sector are varied and include:

  • Agriculture
  • Agri-food operations
  • Rural operations
  • Poultry production
  • Dairy production
  • Pork production
  • Irrigation and irrigation management
  • Shearing
  • Wool clip preparation, handling and classing
  • Permaculture and organic farming
  • Pest management
  • Horse breeding
  • Beekeeping
  • Feedlot operations
  • Rural merchandising and rural machinery operations.

For more information and data specific to Agribusiness, and Production Horticulture please visit the respective pages.

All data sources are available at the end of the page.

Employment trends

Employment snapshot

In 2021 approximately 277,400 people employed across the Agriculture Operations and Services sector, decreasing from 330,700 in 2020.

Sheep, Beef Cattle and Grain Farming was the largest sector in 2021, with approximately 46% of employment. Between 2020 and 2021 employment grew in Mushroom and Vegetable Growing, Fruit and Nut Growing and Other Livestock Farming areas of the sector, with employment levels in other areas decreasing.

Employment levels are projected to increase between 2021 and 2025 in Fruit and Tree Nut Growing, Sheep, Beef Cattle and Grain Farming, Other Crop Growing and Dairy Cattle Farming.

Livestock Farmers make up the largest proportion of workers in the sector (27%) and is projected to remain relatively between 2021 and 2025 (a decline of less than 1%).

Crop Farmers comprise approximately 15% of the Agricultural Operations and Services related workforce and the employment level is also projected to remain relatively stable between 2021 and 2025 (a decline of less than 1%).

Training trends

Training snapshot

In 2020 there were approximately 17,180 program enrolments, a considerable drop from the peak in 2016 of more than 30,860 enrolments. Program completions have followed a similar pattern between 2016 and 2020, declining from the peak of 8,860 in 2017 to 5,130 completions in 2020.

Approximately 47% of program enrolments were at the certificate II level and 36% were at certificate III level. More than three quarters of all program enrolments (78%) were in two qualifications in 2020, namely agriculture (52%) and rural operations (26%).

Agricultural operations and services qualifications lead to a wide range of intended occupations from Apiarist through to Wool Classer. The three largest occupation groups are Mixed Crop and Livestock Farm Workers with over a third of program enrolments (36%), followed by Farm, Forestry and Garden Workers (29%) and Stock and Station Agents (13%).

Private training providers delivered the highest proportion of training (35%) in 2020, followed by TAFE institutes (27%) and schools, which delivered more than a quarter (26%). Ninety per cent of training enrolments were government funded in 2020.

In 2020 Queensland had the highest proportion of students (26%) enrolled in Agriculture Operations and Services related qualifications, followed closely by New South Wales (25%) and then Victoria (20%). In terms of training delivery, New South Wales had the highest program enrolments (28%), followed by Queensland (26%) and Victoria (21%).

Apprentice and trainee commencements increased in 2020 to approximately 1,710 from 1,290 in 2019. The main destination occupations for apprentices and trainees in 2020 were Farm, Forestry and Garden Workers. South Australia had the highest proportion of apprentices in training (26%) in Agriculture Operations and Services related qualifications in 2020, followed by Victoria (24%) and New South Wales (22%),

For more data specific to your occupation, industry group or training package, visit NCVER’s Data Builder.

For more data specific to your region visit NCVER’s Atlas of Total VET.

If you are interested in extracting NCVER data to construct tables with data relevant to you, sign up for a VOCSTATS account.

Industry insights

Industry insights on skills needs

Further to the factors outlined on the Agriculture Cluster page, other challenges and opportunities impacting Agricultural Operations and Services include:

Industry environmental response

The Meat & Livestock Australia’s (MLA) Australian Red Meat Industry’s Carbon Neutral by 2030 Roadmap sets what a carbon neutral means for this industry, why it has set the target, which areas it will focus on and how it can implement the work. Further, MLA is investing in technologies to support industry’s transition to a carbon neutral position. Some technologies and practices being adopted include improved animal genetics and husbandry practices to reduce emissions intensity (per unit of meat produced).

Future of work in Agri-food

Australia’s closure of its border to international visitors and seasonal workers has brought about a shortage of farm workers in Australia. Rapid advances in agricultural robotisation, data mining and sensor technology offer a viable alternative, according to the report What is the Future of Work in Agri-food?. Robo-weeders, automated strawberry pickers and now also vertical farms are just a few more recent examples of technologies that reduce the demand for labour.

Analysis of priority skills identified in the Agriculture, Horticulture and Conservation and Land Management IRC’s 2019 Skills Forecast is available on the Agriculture Cluster page.

Links and resources

Below is a list of industry-relevant research, organisations and associations. Hyperlinks have been included where available.

IRC and skills forecasts

 

Relevant research

Australian Red Meat Industry’s Carbon Neutral by 2030 Roadmap – Meat & Livestock Australia

What is the Future of Work in Agri-food? – Luc Christiaensen, Zachariah Rutledge and J Edward Taylor

 

    Industry associations and advisory bodies

    Agribusiness Australia

    AgriFutures Australia

    Almond Board of Australia

    Animal Health Australia

    Apple and Pear Australia Limited

    Arboriculture Australia

    Australasian Alpaca Breeders Association

    Australian Wool Testing Authority

    Australian Alpaca Association

    Australian Asparagus Council

    Australian Association of Stud Merino Breeders

    Australian Banana Growers' Council

    Australian Blueberry Growers' Association

    Australian Cane Farmers Association

    Australian Chicken Growers' Council

    Australian Cotton Shippers Association

    Australian Custom Harvesters

    Australian Dairy Farmers

    Australian Dairy Herd Improvement Scheme (DataGene)

    Australian Dairy Industry Council

    Australian Eggs Limited

    Australian Environmental Pest Managers Association

    Australian Farm Institute

    Australian Fodder Industry Association

    Australian Honey Bee Industry Council Inc.

    Australian Institute of Horticulture

    Australian Livestock & Property Agents Association

    Australian Livestock Exporters’ Council

    Australian Lot Feeders' Association

    Australian Lychee Growers Association

    Australian Macadamia Society Ltd

    Australian Mango Industry Association

    Australian Melon Association Inc.

    Australian Mungbean Association

    Australian Mushroom Growers’ Association Ltd

    Australian Nut Industry Council

    Australian Oilseeds Federation

    Australian Olive Association

    Australian Organic

    Australian Organics Recycling Association

    Australian Ostrich Association

    Australian Pecan Growers Association Inc.

    Australian Pig Breeders' Association

    Australian Pork Limited

    Australian Queen Bee Breeders’ Association

    Australian Seed Federation

    Australian Seeds Authority

    Australian Society of Horticultural Science

    Australian Society of Viticulture and Oenology

    Australian Sunflower Association

    Australian Sweetpotato Growers Inc.

    Australian Table Grape Association

    Australian Vignerons

    Australian Wool Exchange

    Australian Wool Innovation Limited

    AUSVEG

    Avocados Australia Ltd

    AWTA Limited (Australian Wool Testing Authority)

    Barley Australia

    Bean Growers Australia

    Canegrowers

    Cattle Council of Australia

    Cherry Growers Australia Inc.

    Chestnuts Australia Inc.

    Citrus Australia

    Corporate Agriculture Australia

    Cotton Australia

    Cotton Research and Development Corporation (CRDC)

    Crop Consultants Australia

    Crop Pollination Association

    Custard Apples Australia

    Dairy Australia

    Dairy Goat Society of Australia

    Deer Industry Association of Australia

    Dried Fruits Australia

    Egg Farmers of Australia

    Environment Institute of Australia and New Zealand Inc

    Farm Biosecurity

    Fertilizer Australia

    Fisheries Research and Development Corporation

    Flower Export Council of Australia

    Goat Industry Council of Australia

    Grain and Feed Trade Association

    Grain Growers

    Grain Producers Australia

    Grain Trade Australia

    Grains Research and Development Corporation

    Green Roofs Australasia

    Hazelnut Growers of Australia

    Honey Packers & Marketers Associations

    Horticulture Innovation Australia

    Hydroponic Farmers Federation

    Institute of Australian Geographers

    Irrigation Australia

    Local Government Tree Resources Association

    Maize Association of Australia

    Meat & Livestock Australia

    National Farmers' Federation

    National Feedlot Accreditation Scheme

    National Herd Improvement Association of Australia Incorporated

    National Irrigators’ Council

    Northern Territory Cattlemen’s Association

    Onions Australia

    Organic Federation of Australia

    Passionfruit Australia Inc

    Persimmons Australia Inc

    Pistachio Growers' Association Inc

    Plant Health Australia

    Potato Processing Association of Australia

    PrimeSafe

    Protected Cropping Australia

    Pulse Australia

    Raspberries and Blackberries Australia

    Regional Australia Institute

    Ricegrowers’ Association of Australia

    Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation

    Rural Skills Australia

    Shearing Contractors’ Association of Australia

    Sheep Producers Australia

    South Australian Wine Industry Association

    Soy Australia

    Strawberries Australia Inc

    Summerfruit Australia Limited

    Sustainable Gardening Australia

    The Environment Institute of Australia and New Zealand

    The Queensland Agriculture Workforce Network

    The Wine Grape Council of SA (WGCSA)

    Utility Arborist Association Australia

    Voice of Horticulture

    Wheat Quality Australia

    Wine Australia

    Wool Producers Australia

     

    Employee associations

    Australian Workers Union (AWU)

    Data sources and notes

    Department of Employment 2021, Employment Projections, available from the Labour Market Information Portal  

    • by ANZSIC 3 digit industries, employment projections to May 2025
      • 010 Agriculture nfd
      • 012 Mushroom and Vegetable Growing
      • 013 Fruit and Tree Nut Growing
      • 014 Sheep, Beef Cattle and Grain Farming
      • 015 Other Crop Growing
      • 016 Dairy Cattle Farming
      • 017 Poultry Farming
      • 018 Deer Farming
      • 019 Other Livestock Farming
      • 052 Agriculture and Fishing Support Services.
    • by ANZSCO 4 digit occupations, employment projections to May 2025
      • Livestock Farmers
      • Crop Farmers
      • Mixed Crop and Livestock Farmers
      • Crop Farm Workers
      • Livestock Farm Workers
      • Farmers and Farm Managers, nfd.

     

    Australian Bureau of Statistics 2021, 6291.0.55.001 - EQ06 - Employed persons by Industry group of main job (ANZSIC), Sex, State and Territory, November 1984 onwards, viewed 1 August 2021, https://www.abs.gov.au/statistics/labour/employment-and-unemployment/labour-force-australia-detailed/may-2021

    Employed total by ANZSIC 3 digit industry, 2001 to 2021, May Quarter

    • 010 Agriculture nfd
    • 012 Mushroom and Vegetable Growing
    • 013 Fruit and Tree Nut Growing
    • 014 Sheep, Beef Cattle and Grain Farming
    • 015 Other Crop Growing
    • 016 Dairy Cattle Farming
    • 017 Poultry Farming
    • 018 Deer Farming
    • 019 Other Livestock Farming
    • 052 Agriculture and Fishing Support Services.

    Australian Bureau of Statistics 2017, 2016 Census – employment, income and unpaid work, TableBuilder. Findings based on use of ABS TableBuilder data.

    • Employment level by 3 digit Agriculture industry, and 4 digit level occupations to identify the relevant VET-related occupations in the industry as a proportion of the total workforce.

                                                                                                                                                   

    Training data has been extracted from the National VET Provider Collection, Total VET Students and Courses from the following training package or qualifications:

    • AHC – Agriculture, Horticulture and Conservation and Land Management Training Package.
    • Agriculture
      • AHC20110 - Certificate II in Agriculture
      • AHC20116 - Certificate II in Agriculture
      • AHC30110 - Certificate III in Agriculture
      • AHC30116 - Certificate III in Agriculture
      • AHC33920 - Certificate III in Medicinal Cannabis Cultivation and Production
      • AHC40110 - Certificate IV in Agriculture
      • AHC40116 - Certificate IV in Agriculture
      • AHC42320 - Certificate IV in Medicinal Cannabis Cultivation and Production
      • AHC50110 - Diploma of Agriculture
      • AHC50116 - Diploma of Agriculture
      • AHC51920 - Diploma of Applied Agronomy
      • AHC60110 - Advanced Diploma of Agriculture
      • RTE20103 - Certificate II in Agriculture
      • RTE30102 - Certificate III in Agriculture
      • RTE30103 - Certificate III in Agriculture
      • RTE30203 - Certificate III in Agriculture (Beef Production)
      • RTE40103 - Certificate IV in Agriculture
      • RTE50103 - Diploma of Agriculture
      • RTE60103 - Advanced Diploma of Agriculture
      • RUA10198 - Certificate I in Agriculture
      • RUA20198 - Certificate II in Agriculture
      • RUA30198 - Certificate III in Agriculture
      • RUA40198 - Certificate IV in Agriculture
      • RUA50198 - Diploma of Agriculture
      • RUA60198 - Advanced Diploma of Agriculture.
    • Agri-food Operations
      • AGF10107 - Certificate I in Agri-Food (Pathways)
      • AGR10105 - Certificate I in Agri-Food (Pathways)
      • AHC10210 - Certificate I in AgriFood Operations
      • AHC10216 - Certificate I in AgriFood Operations.
    • Beekeeping
      • AHC31818 - Certificate III in Beekeeping
      • AHC32010 - Certificate III in Beekeeping
      • AHC32016 - Certificate III in Beekeeping.
    • Dairy Production
      • AHC30210 - Certificate III in Agriculture (Dairy Production)
      • AHC30216 - Certificate III in Agriculture (Dairy Production)
      • RTE30403 - Certificate III in Agriculture (Dairy Production)
      • RUA10498 - Certificate I in Agriculture (Dairy)
      • RUA20498 - Certificate II in Agriculture (Dairy)
      • RUA30498 - Certificate III in Agriculture (Dairy)
      • RUA40498 - Certificate IV in Agriculture (Dairy)
      • RUA40898 - Certificate IV in Agriculture (Milk Harvesting)
      • RUA50498 - Diploma of Agriculture (Dairy).
    • Feedlot Operations
      • AHC33311 - Certificate III in Feedlot Operations
      • AHC33316 - Certificate III in Feedlot Operations.
    • Horse Breeding
      • AHC30310 - Certificate III in Horse Breeding
      • RTE30703 - Certificate III in Agriculture (Horse Breeding).
    • Irrigation and Irrigation Management
      • AHC21110 - Certificate II in Irrigation
      • AHC21112 - Certificate II in Irrigation
      • AHC21116 - Certificate II in Irrigation
      • AHC21119 - Certificate II in Irrigation
      • AHC32410 - Certificate III in Irrigation
      • AHC32412 - Certificate III in Irrigation
      • AHC32416 - Certificate III in Irrigation
      • AHC32419 - Certificate III in Irrigation Technology
      • AHC41110 - Certificate IV in Irrigation
      • AHC41112 - Certificate IV in Irrigation
      • AHC41116 - Certificate IV in Irrigation
      • AHC51610 - Diploma of Irrigation Management
      • AHC51616 - Diploma of Irrigation Management
      • RTE20203 - Certificate II in Irrigation
      • RTE31303 - Certificate III in Irrigation
      • RTE40203 - Certificate IV in Irrigation
      • RTE50203 - Diploma of Irrigation.
    • Permaculture and Organic Farming
      • AHC10416 - Certificate I in Permaculture
      • AHC21716 - Certificate II in Permaculture
      • AHC33816 - Certificate III in Permaculture
      • AHC41612 - Certificate IV in Organic Farming
      • AHC41616 - Certificate IV in Organic Farming
      • AHC42116 - Certificate IV in Permaculture
      • AHC51812 - Diploma of Organic Farming
      • AHC51816 - Diploma of Organic Farming
      • AHC52116 - Diploma of Permaculture.
    • Pest Management
      • AHC30318 - Certificate III in Rural and Environmental Pest Management
      • AHC31810 - Certificate III in Vertebrate Pest Management
      • AHC31910 - Certificate III in Weed Management
      • AHC33616 - Certificate III in Pest Management
      • AHC41716 - Certificate IV in Pest Management
      • AHC41720 - Certificate IV in Pest Management
      • AHC51310 - Diploma of Pest Management
      • AHC51316 - Diploma of Pest Management.
    • Pork Production
      • AHC30410 - Certificate III in Pork Production
      • AHC30416 - Certificate III in Pork Production
      • AHC50210 - Diploma of Pork Production
      • AHC50213 - Diploma of Pork Production
      • AHC50216 - Diploma of Pork Production
      • RTE30903 - Certificate III in Agriculture (Pig Production)
      • RUA10998 - Certificate I in Agriculture (Pig Production)
      • RUA20998 - Certificate II in Agriculture (Pig Production)
      • RUA30998 - Certificate III in Agriculture (Pig Production)
      • RUA40998 - Certificate IV in Agriculture (Pig Production).
    • Poultry Production
      • AHC20210 - Certificate II in Poultry Production Operations
      • AHC30510 - Certificate III in Poultry Production
      • AHC30516 - Certificate III in Poultry Production
      • AHC40210 - Certificate IV in Poultry Production
      • RTE31003 - Certificate III in Agriculture (Poultry Production)
      • RUA11098 - Certificate I in Agriculture (Poultry Production)
      • RUA21098 - Certificate II in Agriculture (Poultry Production)
      • RUA31098 - Certificate III in Agriculture (Poultry Production)
      • RUA41098 - Certificate IV in Agriculture (Poultry Production).
    • Rural Merchandising and Rural Machine Operations
      • AHC31918 - Certificate III in Rural Machinery Operations
      • AHC32610 - Certificate III in Rural Machinery Operations
      • AHC32616 - Certificate III in Rural Machinery Operations
      • AHC32710 - Certificate III in Rural Merchandising
      • AHC32716 - Certificate III in Rural Merchandising
      • AHC32720 - Certificate III in Rural Merchandising
      • AHC51710 - Diploma of Rural Machinery Management
      • RTE31803 - Certificate III in Rural Merchandising
      • RUA21298 - Certificate II in Agriculture (Rural Merchandising)
      • RUA31298 - Certificate III in Agriculture (Rural Merchandising)
      • RUA41298 - Certificate IV in Agriculture (Rural Merchandising).
    • Rural Operations
      • AHC21210 - Certificate II in Rural Operations
      • AHC21216 - Certificate II in Rural Operations
      • AHC32810 - Certificate III in Rural Operations
      • AHC32816 - Certificate III in Rural Operations
      • RTE10103 - Certificate I in Rural Operations
      • RTE20703 - Certificate II in Rural Operations
      • RTE31903 - Certificate III in Rural Operations
      • RUH20901 - Certificate II in Rural Operations
      • RUH30901 - Certificate III in Rural Operations.
    • Shearing
      • AHC21310 - Certificate II in Shearing
      • AHC21316 - Certificate II in Shearing
      • AHC32910 - Certificate III in Shearing
      • AHC32916 - Certificate III in Shearing
      • AHC41210 - Certificate IV in Shearing
      • AHC42216 - Certificate IV in Shearing Contracting
      • RTE20403 - Certificate II in Shearing
      • RTE20503 - Certificate II in Crutching
      • RTE31503 - Certificate III in Shearing
      • RTE40403 - Certificate IV in Shearing
      • RUA22498 - Certificate II in Agriculture (Shearing).
    • Wool Clip Preparation, Handling and Classing
      • AHC21410 - Certificate II in Wool Handling
      • AHC21416 - Certificate II in Wool Handling
      • AHC33010 - Certificate III in Wool Clip Preparation
      • AHC33013 - Certificate III in Wool Clip Preparation
      • AHC33016 - Certificate III in Wool Clip Preparation
      • AHC33110 - Certificate III in Advanced Wool Handling
      • AHC33116 - Certificate III in Advanced Wool Handling
      • AHC41310 - Certificate IV in Wool Classing
      • AHC41313 - Certificate IV in Wool Classing
      • AHC41316 - Certificate IV in Wool Classing
      • RTE20303 - Certificate II in Wool Handling
      • RTE31403 - Certificate III in Wool Clip Preparation
      • RTE32003 - Certificate III in Advanced Wool Handling
      • RTE40303 - Certificate IV in Wool Classing
      • RUA21498 - Certificate II in Agriculture (Wool Handling)
      • RUA31498 - Certificate III in Agriculture (Clip Preparation)
      • RUA41498 - Certificate IV in Agriculture (Wool Classing).

     

    This includes superseded qualifications and training packages.

    Data covers a range of selected student and training characteristics in the following categories and years:

    •  2016 to 2020 program enrolments
    •  2016 to 2020 program completions.

     

    Total VET students and courses data is reported for the calendar year. Program enrolments are the qualifications, courses and skill-sets in which students are enrolled in a given period. For students enrolled in multiple programs, all programs are counted. Program completion indicates that a student has completed a structured and integrated program of education or training. Location data uses student residence. Subject enrolment is registration of a student at a training delivery location for the purpose of undertaking a module, unit of competency or subject. For more information on the terms and definitions, please refer to the Total VET students and courses: terms and definitions document. 

    Low counts (less than 5) are not reported to protect client confidentiality.

    Percentages are rounded to one decimal place. This can lead to situations where the total sum of proportions in a chart may not add up to exactly 100%.

    AHC – Agriculture, Horticulture and Conservation and Land Management Training Package apprentice and trainee data has been extracted from the National Apprentice and Trainee Collection, including:

    • 2011 to 2020 commencements
    • 2011 to 2020 completions
    • apprentices and trainees in-training October to December 2020 collection, by qualification and state and territory of data submitter.
    Updated: 14 Dec 2021
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