Dairy New Zealand says dairy farmers need to lift their game as employers if they want to attract the staff they need.
The organisation said the industry needed 1000 graduates a year at diploma level and above to fill positions on farms.
Dairy NZ strategy and investment leader Mark Paine said while graduate numbers were growing the industry still was not getting anywhere near what it needed to meet that demand.
A recent survey by labour inspectors found most of the farms checked were breaching employment rules.
Dr Paine said that had to change if dairy farmers wanted to attract the staff they needed.
"There's nothing more tragic than investing in people and then losing them because, you know, basic practices weren't right on the farm.
"And of course it extends beyond just the conditions of employment and the employment relationship, it's about health and safety and also looking after the wellbeing side of the staff as well, and that's physical and mental health."
Dairy NZ will focus on employment issues and providing practical advice at a two-day farmers' forum at Mystery Creek starting on Wednesday.
However, Dairy NZ has been lobbying for changes to the rules around the minimum wage, so farmers can average out their workers pay over a fortnight rather than a week.
The Council of Trade Unions said this would allow farmers to force their employees to work longer hours without the penalty of the minimum wage being payable for each hour worked.