The provision of effective extension services to smallholder farmers across both developing and developed countries remains a challenge worldwide. The objective of the study is to demonstrate the impacts of improved extension services on awareness, knowledge, adoption rates and perceived benefits of smallholder dairy farmers in Pakistan. An extension program was developed and implemented in five districts of Punjab (Okara, Pakpattan, Jhelum, Kasur and Bhakkar) and two districts of Sindh (Thatta and Badin) provinces. The extension program involved the provision of research-based information on a monthly basis to smallholder farming families (FF = 523) over a 4-year period. The extension program was primarily a knowledge transfer-based system, but also relied on farmer engagement and feedback to help drive research and topics for discussion. No financial incentives were provided to the farmers for their participation. A ‘whole-family approach’ was used in the extension program, where comprehensive interdisciplinary training on the whole dairy-farming system was provided to the males, females and children of the farming household. To encourage greater participation and support different learning strategies, several information transfer media were used (including group discussions, one-on-one visits, practical demonstrations, problem-based learning techniques and videos). To assess the impact of this extension program on farms involved, data on farmer awareness, knowledge, adoption and their perceived benefits were collected using a mixed-method approach from three different groups of farmers; registered (IMPreg = 179) farmers directly involved in the extension program, non-registered (IMPnon-reg = 116) farmers indirectly benefiting from the program and traditional (IMPtrad = 104) farmers not associated with any project activities. Overall awareness, knowledge and adoption rates relating to seven different recommendations in the extension program were significantly (P < 0.05) higher in the registered farmers than in the non-registered and traditional farmers. The perceived benefits of the adopted recommendations varied between the different extension messages, but farmers described that they observed increases in milk production, improvements in animal health (body condition and morbidity) and labour efficiency (time savings). These results suggest that adopting improved extension services using a whole-family approach we can significantly achieve higher adoption rates, leading to on-farm benefits to smallholder dairy farmers and their families.