A career in dairy farming is a rewarding and surprisingly varied route to take if you have a love of animals, business acumen and a readiness to take on hard work in all weathers. The dairy industry is a vital part of the UK economy, with 13,000 dairy farmers producing more than 14 billion litres of milk every year worth £8.8 billion. It’s an evolving industry that’s here to stay and is relying on the next generation of enthusiastic and informed candidates to take it to the next level.
What are the routes to working in dairy jobs?
A typical route could be to study agriculture at college, get a first job as a farm helper, then specialise in dairy. You could also take a degree in a related subject such as agriculture, farm business management or livestock production, and enter dairy farming at a higher level. Apprenticeships in agriculture or agricultural business management are also available and typically take 18 months to complete. These are an ideal way to gain hands-on experience on dairy farms and learn valuable practical skills.
What are the different roles within the dairy farming sector?
You might be surprised at the number and range of roles within the dairy farming sector. Many people start out in a generalised role to gain practical experience of working with herds and can later branch out into a wide range of specialised dairy jobs.
Starting out as an apprentice on a dairy farm is very much a hands-on role which includes looking after livestock, preparing pens, mucking out, helping with calving and the care of calves, milking, driving tractors and preparing livestock for shows. It’s an excellent way to get to know the industry and get an idea of the different routes you can take in this sector.
A dairy farmer oversees all the activity on their farm. This will involve keeping a close eye on the welfare of the herd, managing the daily milking and feeding schedules and organising the care and maintenance of the herd that is a vital part of the farming process. They will also need to have a good understanding of the business side of running a farm, and how well their activity is meeting budgets and targets.
A dairy nutritionist visits farms and advises on developing feeding plans and feeds. Day-to-day tasks will include writing diet plans, finding the best feeds in terms of value for money and nutrition, analysing samples, assessing the condition of the herd, keeping records and writing reports. Their role is vital in ensuring that production is maximised while keeping animals in the best possible health and condition.
For those considering veterinary jobs, a dairy farm vet is a good option if you’re looking for a varied and stimulating role. Here your aim will be to help keep individual cows and the entire herd healthy and productive, and it’s as much about keeping the herd strong as treating them when they fall ill. Tasks include performing a range of tests, dental work and surgery and prescribing drugs, as well as examining heifers before and after insemination, and assisting at calving time.
A herdsperson is the ‘eyes and ears’ of the herd, keeping a close eye on animal health and wellbeing. Their chief tasks will be to observe their herd and keep high standards of health and cleanliness, keep meticulous records, manage the herd’s fertility and increase productivity, and help manage milking and the intervention of other specialists, such as the nutritionists and hoof trimmers.
A hoof trimmer is a specialised role that is exactly what you would expect it to be: trimming cows’ hooves to keep them in top condition. Part of the role can also be to sell hoof trimming supplies and deliver demonstrations and talks to students and farmers.
Agricultural consultants are highly specialised, helping dairy farmers to get the most out of their business, advising on nutrition, breeding and working in an environmentally friendly way, as well as the nuts and bolts of running a business.
The exciting role of genetics adviser provides specialised advice to dairy farmers helping them realise the full potential of their herd and fulfil their breeding targets. Their expertise is vital in ensuring the future of the dairy industry by helping farmers produce profitable, healthy and happy animals.
A pedigree dairy analyst assesses data to do with pedigree herds to enable the farmer to meet business targets. It’s an excellent career for someone who has hands-on experience of dairy herds as well as a thirst for helping farmers achieve their potential and a good understanding of finance and business.
You could even consider a career in selling to dairy farmers – there are a huge variety of products used within dairy farming!
What does the future hold for a career in dairy?
This is a dynamic sector, with many new developments and a great future. There is a collective desire to reduce the environmental footprint of the dairy industry, so candidates with expertise in methods to achieve this will have an exciting future in this sector.
The same can be said about technology, which is playing an increasingly important role in the dairy industry. Smart farms now use sensors to identify individual cows through their spot patterns, length of their head and other physical attributes. This data can then be used to adjust feed mix to individual animals’ needs. Robotic milking systems and drones to monitor cows and grazing land are also increasingly being used in this sector. Anyone with technical expertise should consider a career in the dairy farming industry as a place to use their skills to the full.
And at grassroots level, a number of factors, including Brexit and the expected reduction in workers from Europe, will mean that there will continue to be a demand for people to join this thriving industry at entry level, learn the trade and diversify into one of the many roles we’ve looked at in this article. The future is bright for the dairy industry and anyone looking for agricultural jobs in a dynamic and evolving sector.
If you are looking for a new job or to progress your career within dairy farming or agriculture, then Agricultural Recruitment Specialists are worldwide recruitment experts in agricultural, food, farming and rural recruitment and have a variety of executive and management positions available within agriculture, horticulture and the food and rural sectors throughout the UK and the rest of the world. To find out more about our agricultural job vacancies and discuss your future career, contact our team of agricultural recruitment professionals. You can visit our website here: www.agriRS.co.uk or call our team on: 01905 345 155 or email us at: info@agriRS.co.uk
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