A day in the life of a dairy farmer

Dairy farming is a demanding and rewarding profession that requires a lot of hard work and dedication. A day in the life of a dairy farmer can be long and intense, but it is also filled with moments of satisfaction and pride. A dairy farmer is a highly skilled professional, as they essentially serve as:

  • A business manager
  • A manual labourer 
  • Skilled machine operator
  • Animal nutritionist
  • Animal behaviourist
  • Warehouse manager 
  • Stock controller
  • Health and safety officer
  • Employer 
  • Business contract negotiator
  • Accounts receivable specialist 
  • Accounts payable specialist
  • Guidelines and legislation officers

And every day they will need to put on many of these hats at once. 

Busy mornings

A typical day for a dairy farmer begins before dawn. The farmer wakes up early to start the milking process, which can take several hours to complete. The first task is to feed and water the cows, as they need to be properly nourished before being milked. But it’s not just about feeding, it is taking note of stock levels, monitoring the feeding habits of the animals so as to identify early signs of health issues. Ensuring hygiene is maintained and stores are kept in accordance with guidelines. 

After feeding the cows, the farmer begins the milking process. In modern dairy farming, most farmers use milking machines, which allow for more efficient milking and reduce the risk of injury to both the cows and the farmer. The milking machine is attached to the cow’s udder, and the farmer monitors the process to ensure that each cow is milked properly. First the cows are placed in pens in the milking parlour. The farmer checks each cow for signs of any problems, healthy cows have their udders washed, checked again for any bleeding, cuts, wounds, etc and only then is the cow attached to the milking machine. This process is repeated for every cow. During milking the farmer is cleaning and washing the parlour. The farmer must ensure that the milk is properly stored at the correct temperature to maintain its quality. Once all cows are milked, a full wash down of the parlour and all equipment with disinfectant is completed. 

After the milking process is complete, the farmer attends to other tasks on the farm. There will always be something to repair on a farm. A fence that has fallen over, a machine that needs repairs, a barn door that needs welding, a pen that needs repair. Then there is cleaning, including cleaning the barn or pasture, areas near the food stores, milk storage area etc. The farmer is constantly vigilant of pests and any signs of early infestation. Pest can cause a lot of harm for farmers, from destroying stores of seed, feed and chemicals to causing and spreading disease to his animals. 

Next will be attending to the animals that are under care, expecting mothers, animals under veterinary care, hoof management etc.

So, finished by lunchtime right?

Throughout the day, the farmer must also manage the business side of the farm. This includes managing finances, marketing the farm’s products, finding time to stay up-to-date with industry trends and regulations. There will be numerous phone calls throughout the day. Ordering supplies, booking appointments for vets, machine mechanics, calls to the milk hauliers or processors, banks, fuel supplies etc. If they grow their own crops or grasses, then they will be booking services like drivers, machines such as harvesters, trailers, storage etc. There will also always be a compliance document of some sort to be filled in and returned in order to keep in line with the hundreds of governmental legislations and regulations. 

In the late afternoon, the farmer begins the milking process once again. This second milking is typically shorter than the morning milking, as the cows produce less milk at this time. But the process is the same, water and feed the animals, do the health checks, monitor the milk storage, cleaning etc. 

After the milking is complete, the farmer attends to other tasks on the farm before calling it a day. There will be more cleaning, more lock up checks to be done, more phone calls and ordering. During the day there will be often unforeseen events that will need managing and preparing for, for the next day. 

And during calving season, the farmer will often grab his dinner, and be back out into the calving house, attending to a mother who needs help and find himself sleeping in with the cows just to be close on hand to ensure they receive immediate care should they need him. 

While a day in the life of a dairy farmer can be physically and mentally demanding, it is also filled with moments of satisfaction and pride. Dairy farmers take pride in the work they do and the products they produce. They have a deep connection to the land and to their animals, and they are committed to providing high-quality dairy products to their customers.

That has to be everything, right?

In addition to the challenges of farming, dairy farmers also face challenges related to industry trends and regulations. As consumer preferences and dietary choices change, dairy farmers must adapt to meet the changing demands of their customers. This may involve investing in new equipment or technology, changing the way they farm or market their products, or exploring new products or services.

In recent years, farmers have also been focused on sustainability and environmental stewardship. This includes initiatives such as reducing water use, using renewable energy sources, and implementing waste reduction programs. By prioritising sustainability, dairy farmers are not only protecting the environment, but also ensuring the long-term viability of their farms and the industry as a whole.

Despite the challenges, dairy farming remains an important and rewarding profession. Dairy farmers play a vital role in providing nutritious, high-quality dairy products to consumers, and they are committed to ensuring that their products are produced in a responsible and sustainable way. A day in the life of a dairy farmer may be long and challenging, but it is also filled with moments of pride, satisfaction, and connection to the land and the animals they care for.