Dairy husbandry and production, more commonly referred to as dairy farming, is a combination of animal husbandry and agricultural production–specifically the long-term production of milk from cows, goats, sheep and even camels. Milk produced is either processed at the same site where the milk is produced or it may be shipped to a specialized processing plant, which in turn will ship it to retail locations for sale to the public.
Dairy farming and husbandry has existed for many thousands of years. For most of that time the industry was characterized by small, diverse farms. However, over the last century the industry landscape has changed substantially. Today, only larger specialized farms are involved in dairy production. Due to the economies of scale involved in dairy production, and every shrinking margins, only the larger farms that are able to scale production, and do so profitably, have been able to survive.
Farmers today employ modern technology, state-of-the-art machinery and complex plumbing systems to produce and store milk. Most farmers milk their cows 2 to 3 times a day in order to maximize production and profitablity. However, some farmers (most noteably those in New Zealand) have started milking their cows only once a day in exchange for more leisure time.
Each year dairy farms produce calves. Female calves are typically turned into milking cows and the male calves are are sold at market usually for veal production (since dairy farms aren’t typically interested in non-milk-producing stock). While some dairy farms purchase feed, many produce their own feed (usually a combination of hay and corn) and store it in silos for use during the winter.
Dairy husbandry programs are designed to prepare students to manage the selection and care of dairy animals and associated dairy farm and processing facilities and operations. Dairy farming and husbandry programs typically include in depth instruction in basic animal and dairy science; animal husbandry; design and operation of dairy feeding, housing, and processing facilities and equipment; dairy animal nutrition and health; and related issues of safety, shipping and handling, sanitation, and applicable regulations.
The following colleges and universities provide majors and degree programs in Dairy Husbandry and Production.
- Michigan State University East Lansing, MI
- Northeast Iowa Community College Calmar, IA
- State University of New York College of Agriculture and Technology at Morrisville Morrisville, NY
- University of New Hampshire Durham, NH
- University of Wisconsin-River Falls River Falls, WI
- Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College Shell Lake, WI