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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.