Become a Dairy Farmer

When was the last time you had a dairy product? Was it milk with your breakfast cereal? Cheese on your cheeseburger? Butter on your dinner roll? Mint chocolate chip ice cream for desert? Dairy is one of the main food groups and it is a very lucrative industry.

Dairy farmers raise, breed, and milk cows. It’s hard work, but someone has to do it – especially if you want milk with your Frosted Flakes. Dairy farmers work long, hard hours every single day of the year. Cows get milked two to three times per day and the feeding and milking process begins before sunrise.

Dairy farming is a do-it-yourself job. You have to be willing to get your hands dirty and milk some cows. Most dairy farmers learn the business from family.

Others learn by working on a farm. There is no need for a formal education if you want to be a dairy farmer, but many people do have a degree in animal husbandry. More important than proper schooling is the need to understand animals, milking processes, crops, business, transport, and even management if you hire helpers.

If you want to get started as a dairy farmer, you need a few basic things. First you need milk producing cows. Cows are a great investment because unlike machinery or buildings they never depreciate. They are also easy to buy and sell. You will also need farmland and barns where your cows can live, graze, and be milked. It’s hard to say how many cows or how much land you need to start an income producing, dairy farm because it depends on where you are located. Talk with other farmers to get the inside scoop before you just go buy some cows. You need to be sure you get quality milk producers.

Dairy farmers make their money by milking cows – and sometimes goats and sheep. They also can make money selling manure or breeding and selling cows. Farmers can plan on regular paychecks, especially if they are part of a cooperative like the Dairy Farmers of America. The DFA is a group of around 16,000 dairy farmers from 48 states who work together to bring ice cream, milk, cheese, and butter to your table.

Dairy is a billion dollar industry. It takes billions of gallons of milk to produce yogurt, cheese, and other dairy products. Just look at all of the gallons of milk and piles of cheese in your local grocery. This industry is huge! Dairy farmers make money by how much milk is produced. This means healthy cows are key. Recording each cow’s milk production helps determine which cows are cash cows and which ones are not.

Besides having quality milk producing cows, a dairy farmer’s salary is dependent on factors like size of operation, location, self employed or corporate farm, and the overall year. Income for a dairy farmer varies, depending on the size of the farm. Earnings vary from year to year, and many farmers also work at another job to generate additional income.

If you think that dairy farming is your calling start looking for jobs in some of the top dairy producing states like California, Wisconsin, New York, or Idaho. Learn the trade from a seasoned, dairy farming veteran. Look for job info from a dairy organization like Future Farmers of America or the American Dairy Association, or Google “dairy farmer jobs” and see what’s available.

Dairy farming is a satisfying career. It may not be one you ever planned on pursuing, but who knows maybe pulling udders and milking cows in the peaceful countryside is the perfect job for you.

Quick Facts About Dairy Farming

Job Title: Dairy Farmer
Office: Farm
Description: Raise, breed, and milk cows for milk
Certifications/Education: No formal education needed, Animal Husbandry degree helpful
Necessary Skills: Knowledge of farming, cows, milk industry
Potential Employers: Self employed, large or small farms
Pay: Varies by location, size of farm, number of cows, year.

Helpful Links:
American Dairy Association
Milk Industry Foundation
Dairy Farmers of America
Wisconsin School For Beginning Dairy Farmers
Future Farmers of America

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