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9/10/2017 How to Start a Dairy Farm: 15 Steps (with Pictures) - wikiHow

How to Start a Dairy Farm Reader


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Two Parts: Planning Your Dairy Farm Learning the Basics

Dairy farms take a lot of money, and capital to start up, way more than a meat operation does. Know what you're getting into
and how you want to get into it before you decide to start a dairy farm. Even if you grew up on a farm, managing your own
means sitting down for long, careful planning sessions. This guide will help you through these, but remember that local
knowledge is invaluable for any farmer.

Part
Planning Your Dairy Farm
1

1 Research species and breed. The most common dairy animals are cows, goats (good for a small farm), or water
buffalo (in south Asia). Each one has many dairy breeds, and local knowledge is your best way to choose
between them. Contact government institutions, university agricultural extensions, and established dairy farms and ask
for info to help you make the decision:
Rule out breeds that can't thrive in your climate.
For each breed, divide annual upkeep cost by annual milk production to find production cost per unit of milk.
Is there local demand for the breed's milk (based on species and milk fat %)? What about for butter and cheese
(where a high fat % is useful)?
How much time and money does it take to raise a calf to milk-producing age? How much can you sell the male
calves for?

2 Decide on a food source. Concentrated feed requires less labor but more money. New farms often save on costs
by supplementing it with Management Intensive Rotational Grazing (MIRG).[1] Look at land rental prices in your
area and determine how many cattle per acre it can support.
Livestock need about 4% of their weight in forage each day. Ideally, your pasture should produce more than
this at peak season, so you can stockpile the surplus for winter.[2]
Renting land is usually better than purchasing for a new farm. Wait until your farm is well-established and you
no longer need the financial flexibility.

3 Create a breeding plan. Dairy bulls have a reputation for dangerous behavior, and in any case raising one year
round gets expensive. The safer options are paying for a bull's service at breeding time, or practicing artificial
insemination (AI). AI is almost always the cheapest option, and has equal or higher success rates when performed
correctly (ideally by trained AI techs).[3]
Artificial insemination programs are now widespread in India and many African countries. The savings are not
as significant and the programs vary in quality, but it is still usually worth it.[4]
Male:female herd ratio varies between species and with the male's age. A young bull can typically service 20
25 cows, while a healthy, mature bull may be able to handle up to 40.[5]

4 Study farming practices. If you don't have dairy farm experience already, take some time to learn about
breeding, calving, manure management, weaning, milking cows, and crop management. Farming requires a great
deal of time, work, and knowledge, so walk into it with open eyes.
If this is all new to you, try to get some work experience on another dairy farm first.

5 Invest in capital. A farm requires a large one-time expenditure to get started. Buying an existing dairy farm
makes the task simpler, and can save money if you're willing to do some repairs yourself. Whether you plan to buy
or start it all yourself, make sure you'll have the following facilities:[6][7][8]
A sterile facility for storing milk, and for pasteurizing if required in your area
Dry, sunny sheds or barns protected from weather and temperature changes
Milking parlor with stanchions
Feed storage and manure storage
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Separate living space for calves


Equipment (including tractors) and equipment storage area
Well for watering cattle, plus water transport system to tanks in pasture
Irrigation system for pasture (optional)[9]
Note if possible, give yourself room to expand to a larger herd

6 Find a good source for animals. Inspect all dairy animals personally before buying, including several milking
tests. The animal should be healthy and vaccinated against disease. Ideally, purchase the animals right after
calving, on its second or third lactation (when milk production is highest).[10] Wait to buy the second half the herd until
the first group is about to go dry, so your farm can produce milk year round.[11]

7 Research the local milk market. If you're starting with just a few animals, talk to nearby dairy farmers for advice
on selling to local stores and individuals. If you have a slightly larger herd, you can get a more stable income by
selling the milk to a company that will handle distribution.

8 Contact the government. Your local or regional government may require permits and paperwork to run a farm,
sell milk, irrigate your land, and/or hire staff to help you.

9 Create a business plan. Put all your financial estimates into a plan that covers the first few years of your
business. In addition to the necessary items above, remember to include the estimated cost of veterinary care per
animal, and the cost of any labor you plan to hire. Also look into an additional source of profit: selling manure.
Contact government institutions about subsidies and loans for farmers before you take out a loan from a bank.
Use the average milk prices (or slightly lower) over the past few years when estimating future profits. You don't
want your business to go under if milk prices drop.
As a rule of thumb, you'll need one laborer per 10 milk animals, and one per 20 "dry" animals.[12] This includes
you and your family.

Part
Learning the Basics
2

1 Mark each individual animal. Assuming you have more than a few animals, you'll need to mark them to tell them
apart. This will help you track individual milk production and illness. Tagging is a common method.

2 Control the spread of disease. Always buy disease-free animals, and keep them isolated from other animals
during transportation to your farm. Quarantining new arrivals (and animals that fall sick) is recommended,
especially if they do not have trustworthy, recent health records. Your local government or veterinarian can give you
specific advice about diseases in your area.
Equipment shared between farms can spread disease. Try to confirm where the equipment has been used and
whether the animals there were healthy.[13]
Disease-carrying ticks are a major problem for livestock.[14] Inspect animals for ticks regularly, and keep the
shed area clear of brush.

3 Give the animals proper nutrition. Feeding cattle and other livestock can be a complicated business. There are
many different kinds of fodder and forage plants, which provide different amounts of energy, protein, roughage,
and various nutrients. A veterinarian or experienced farmer can help you work with the food you have available.
Mineral licks and/or mineral supplements are an important part of the animal's diet.
Moldy feed or feed stored in the same area as pesticides and other contaminants can transfer dangerous
toxins to the milk.[15]
Dairy animals have high nutrition requirements compared to animals raised for meat. Improper nutrition can
lead to lower milk production or lower quality milk.

4 Milk the animal frequently. Milk-producing animals typically need milking two or three times a day. Move the
animal to a clean location. Wash and dry your hands and the udder before milking.[16]
If you've never milked an animal before, learn how to milk a cow or goat.

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5 Understand the breeding cycle. You will need to breed your female animals regularly to keep them lactating as
often as possible. The cycle of breeding, calving, and weaning calves has implications for the animal's nutrition
needs, health, and of course milk production. Our guide on cows gives you the basics, but this will vary based on
species and age.
Unlike farms that raise livestock for meat, you will be calving all year round to keep milk production steady.
Keeping track of where each animal is in the cycle is vital so you can stick to a plan that keeps your income as
regular as possible.

6 Plan for changes in your herd. Whether to sell, slaughter, or keep an animal is one of the toughest questions for
a dairy farmer. Culling allows you to replace a low-yield animal with a higher-quality replacement, and to increase
the genetic quality of your herd. Both of these factors are important, but performing them without a plan can add
massive costs for replacement animals.[17] Take this into account in your business plan, and include the cost/profit of
producing each male and female calf as well.

Community Q&A

How can I start a dairy farm for my village?

Study business management. If there is another dairy farm around, make a visit there to see how those business
wikiHow Contributor owners operate. Research what is needed to start a dairy farm.
Not Helpful 36 Helpful 189

How much does one cow cost?

In Karnataka, a cow producing 20 ltrs/day that you can breed, with will cost 70 to 80 K. ($1200 U.S. dollars).
wikiHow Contributor
Not Helpful 21 Helpful 112

What is the minimum number of cows to start with?

No less than 20, but depends on how big you want your business to be.
wikiHow Contributor
Not Helpful 20 Helpful 100

How can I start a dairy farm coming from an engineering background, with no farming knowledge?

Watch videos and read books. Work on some dairy farms for a few months to gain knowledge.
wikiHow Contributor
Not Helpful 27 Helpful 128

What would be cost of 20 cows and a dairy plant with a milking facility?

It's impossible to give an exact number as so many factors would influence the cost.
wikiHow Contributor
Not Helpful 0 Helpful 8

What is the total investment required to start a dairy farm with 25 cows?

For a farm with 25 cows, you would need at least a $35-40K investment.
wikiHow Contributor
Not Helpful 7 Helpful 30

Is it possible to start with a single cow?

Yes, but it's not profitable. It's better to start with at least 5-6 cows.
wikiHow Contributor
Not Helpful 1 Helpful 10

Which one is better, natural breeding or artificial insemination, for yielding more milk?

Maintaining a bull in your farm may cost you more up front than AI but it is a good investment, in my opinion. The
wikiHow Contributor females can breed naturally and comfortably and this causes them to produce more milk.
Not Helpful 25 Helpful 76

Can I profit from a single cow?

Since profits for dairy farms are very low, even among ranchers with hundreds of cattle, it is very unlikely that a single
Lojjik cow will produce any significant profit. You are more likely to lose money due to the cost of maintaining the cow.
However, a single cow can easily provide enough milk for your own family's use. You may even be able to sell some
of it directly to neighbors.
Not Helpful 29 Helpful 85

How much milk does a cow give in a day?

Around 8 - 10 liters, depending on the cow and breed.


wikiHow Contributor

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Tips

Herd health is very important for dairy operations. Dairy cows can get sick quite easily, and are more prone to injury to
their feet and udders than beef cows are, and are also prone to milk fever and ketosis after calving. In order to have a
healthy dairy herd, stringent health practices must be in place.
Make sure you have good practices to make your cows as comfortable as possible during the time you're milking them.
Allow your calves to milk for at least a month to give them enough strength.
Dairy manure stinks. Don't let it accumulate in the barns. Have a system where manure can be easily moved from the barn
into the lagoons, to minimize the smell from the ammonia produced in the urine and feces.
Winter can be a hard time for cattle. They should have a well-sheltered barn or similar building protected from wind and
weather.

Warnings

Don't go in to this operation thinking it's going to be a smooth ride. You will be very busy from before sunrise to past
sunset every day, doing everything from milking cows to red tape to fixing machinery. It helps to have trusty hired hands,
but you will need to supervise them to keep the farm running smoothly.
Starting a dairy farm is very expensive. Going too far into debt can be very risky without a second job to rely on, since a
shift in grain or milk prices could bankrupt you. If you don't have the finances yet, consider raising animals for meat
instead.

Sources and Citations

1. http://www.cias.wisc.edu/starting-your-own-dairy-farm/
2. http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/stelprdb1097070.pdf
3. https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/an262

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