What Does a Dairy Farmer Do?

Cassie L. Damewood

A dairy farmer is in charge of all operations necessary to produce milk and milk products for commercial sale and consumption. He breeds and raises dairy cows. In many situations, the farmer also grows the hay and grain he feeds to his cattle. The more self-sufficient the farm is, the higher the profits generally are.

A slice of cow's milk cheese.
A slice of cow's milk cheese.

Since the daily work involved in operating a dairy farm is generally long and taxing, the farmer frequently hires workers to help him and his family with maintaining the farm. The farm employees normally assist in keeping the cows healthy, milking them and keeping the farm and crops productive. They also typically assist in keeping the farm buildings clean and the machinery operational.

Dairy farmers typically grow and bale their own hay.
Dairy farmers typically grow and bale their own hay.

A typical day for a dairy farmer begins with milking the cows. Most modern dairy farms use milking machines. Before the milking begins, whether it is done by hand or machine, the cows’ udders are washed to guarantee the integrity of the milk. The containers in which the milk is gathered are also subject to painstaking sanitation procedures.

A dairy farmer must ensure that all of the milking and feeding machinery on a dairy farm is working properly.
A dairy farmer must ensure that all of the milking and feeding machinery on a dairy farm is working properly.

After milking, the cows are traditionally put out to graze in the pasture. While they are grazing, the barns and equipment are free to be cleaned. In the evening, the cows are typically herded back into the barns for their second milking. They are normally fed grain in the evening. When they return to the barn, they are often checked for physical problems or symptoms that may be of concern to the farmer.

It is important that dairy farmers be well-versed in business management, because they will need to track financial and production trends.
It is important that dairy farmers be well-versed in business management, because they will need to track financial and production trends.

Feeding procedures and amounts are generally closely monitored by a dairy farmer. He typically controls feed portions to maintain his profit margins. Younger cows are normally better milk producers and receive larger portions of feed. When older cows’ milk production significantly decreases, they are commonly sold for meat.

In addition to milking cows, a dairy farmer must feed, clean, and check them for illness or disease.
In addition to milking cows, a dairy farmer must feed, clean, and check them for illness or disease.

In addition to daily farming and milking chores, a farmer’s job normally requires him to be well informed about his land, his cows, his crops and the dairy market. To run a successful operation, he is normally required to keep an eye on possible crop or livestock blights and implement preventive measures. If his crops are producing lower amounts than normal, he is generally called upon to find alternate feed sources for his cows. A struggling economy may cause his profits to drop to alarming levels that may threaten his business.

Most modern dairy farms use milking machines to milk their cows.
Most modern dairy farms use milking machines to milk their cows.

No formal education is required to be a dairy farmer. He customarily learns his trade through family, associates and on-the-job training. Colleges, universities and trade schools regularly offer courses on animal husbandry, agricultural management and farm administration that a dairy farmer may find helpful in his career.

Milk by-products such as butter and cheese are also produced at dairy processing facilities.
Milk by-products such as butter and cheese are also produced at dairy processing facilities.

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Discussion Comments

anon89220

This article is so helpful. I'm a dairy farmer and I think more articles should written on this matter.

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