What is Dairy Farming, how to set up, and is it profitable?

In most developing countries such as India, Bangladesh, and African countries, dairy animals such as cows and buffaloes are owned by people living in rural areas. Almost every family has a few cows or buffaloes which are kept in huts or sheds adjoining their houses. The animals are treated like family members by children and the elderly alike. They primarily serve the purpose of providing milk for the consumption of the family. Whatever milk remains after feeding the calves and family members of the owner, is sold in the market. Milk sold in the market fetches them a steady inflow of cash paid either weekly or fortnightly. Fodder available on their farm and some feed purchased from the market are provided to the animals daily. Around 80% of dairy animal owners in developing countries manage their animals in this fashion. Animals are often called by names given to humans and there are several festivals organized only to worship and honor dairy animals. No wonder cows are considered sacred in India. They not only provide milk which is used to feed calves, and family members and make dairy products, but they also help the family earn cash.

What is dairy farming

What is dairy farming?

Dairy farming is the practice of rearing animals such as cows, buffaloes, sheep, and goats. These animals are purchased and brought to the farm and cared for by providing good housing, water, food, and medical attention so that they can be healthy and produce milk. The milk is used to manufacture dairy products such as paneer (cottage cheese), yogurt, buttermilk, ice cream, condensed milk, milk powder, etc. It is also used in other industries, such as paints and paper, but in lesser quantities.

Is milk beneficial for human beings?

Milk is consumed by people since time immemorial. Many people consider milk as a part of a balanced diet for the physical and mental growth of children and for maintaining healthy bones and teeth in adults. Milk provides proteins in the form of caesins (80%) and whey proteins (20%). Milk protein is considered high quality for humans due to the presence of amino acids which help stimulate muscle protein synthesis. For vegetarians, milk and milk products such as paneer, yogurt, etc are an excellent source of proteins. Milk also contains calcium, potassium, phosphorus, riboflavin, vitamin D, vitamin A, and vitamin B12. Research shows that the consumption of milk brings an overall improvement in health aspects in humans and may also reduce the incidence of some forms of cancer.

Milk from dairy farm consumed by children and elderly

Is dairy farming profitable?

Dairy farming has been a source of sustainable income for farmers in India and other developing countries. Many people have started the business with one or two animals and have generated substantial profits. They have subsequently expanded their farms to 100 animals or more. Like any other business, the extent of success in dairy farming depends on whether animals are reared scientifically, how costs on the farm are managed and at what price one sells the milk. Improving the productivity of animals leads to an increase in income. Dairy farms located near towns or large cities can generate high prices per liter of milk by selling directly to retail customers, tea vendors, hotels, restaurants, and caterers (HORECA). People who chose to manufacture dairy products from excess milk are also able to get a better milk price. Estimates indicate that the income generated from dairy products is 2X as compared to the income generated from milk.

dairy farming is profitable business

What factors should you consider before starting a dairy farm?

The success or failure of many dairy farms is linked directly to the kind of housing. On many farms managing animals is easier because of the type of housing they have chosen. On some farms, farmers have landed into various kinds of problems because of the type of housing. Housing type also determines the labor that you will require every day. Smart dairy farmers construct dairy housing structures that reduce the incidence of diseases. A proper housing system also reduces the overall expenses in the farm.

Before you start constructing your dairy farm you need to consider a few important factors:

Availability of water: When you choose the location of your farm’s housing, it is important that you balance several factors together. The most important factor is the availability of enough water. A dairy animal on average requires 150-200 liters of water daily. Check the quality of water for impurities and pollutants. Water must be of good quality and potable by animals

Elevation: For medium to large scale dairy farms try to get a piece of land that is elevated and higher than the surroundings. This is because, dairy operations require a lot of semi-solid and solid waste disposal every day. An elevation helps in drainage, keeping the surroundings clear, and in avoiding foul smells.

Market: If you set your farm very far away from customers or the market it may increase your transport costs. If you have your customers picking up milk from your farm, then ensure that they can reach your farm easily. If you create a farm by understanding the market then you will not have to sell your milk at a low cost.

Fodder availability: All dairy animals need green fodder such as maize, alfa alfa, Napier grass, etc. You will have to find the availability of feed and fodder near your dairy farm. If you want to grow green fodder then the land should be of good quality so that you can get a good yield from the fodder. You must plan to prepare silage in your dairy farm as silage-making increases the profits of a dairy farm.

Weather Conditions: Whatever the weather condition, it should not harm your animals. For that, you need to customize your dairy housing design. In heavy rainfall areas, the housing structure should be made such that it should not get broken by heavy showers and strong winds. In temperate areas, partially loose housing along with the tied system of housing with walls is desirable. In this system, due attention is given to protect animals from heavy snowfall, rain, and strong wind. For hot dry areas, you should provide a shaded area for animals during hot sunny days which saves the animals from direct solar radiation.

loose housing in dairy farming

How are dairy animals housed?

There are three ways in which animals can be kept inside housing structures: Loose housing, Semi Loose Housing, or Tied System.

Loose housing system for dairy farms:

When animals are kept loose and move around freely, it is called Loose Housing. In some cases, they may be tied up only during milking and sometimes during feeding. A loose housing system is suitable for farms of all sizes. Animals can drink water anytime. Removal of manure is done differently in different farms as per the rainfall conditions. In loose housing, due to the soft dry bedding provided to animals, the incidence of diseases is less. While getting up and sitting down the animals do not get injured. One animal has to be provided with a minimum of 150 to 200 sq ft area. This is the recommended housing system for dairy animals as it leads to improved health and milk production in dairy animals.

Tied Housing System:

These are housing systems where animals are kept tied up in the same place. The sheds are completely roofed and the walls are also complete with windows or ventilators at suitable places. Farms that are located near cities or inside cities, do not get much space, and hence they opt for tied systems.

Semi Loose Housing

In this kind of housing, the animals are generally kept tied but let loose for some time during the day. This may be while they are being offered feed and fodder or during other times. They may be tied and kept for resting during the night and brought to the feed manger during the feeding and milking time. They are also kept tied during the rainy season.

Various Components that you must consider before constructing a dairy farm


The shed is the structure under which the animals stay. They are fed and milked under the shed. Ideally, the higher the shed, the more ventilation will the animals get. The shed should be constructed in North-South direction so that you can get ample sunlight inside your shed both in the morning and evening. Heat stress also gets reduced if you have a properly constructed shed. It also helps to keep the shed dry. The roof has to be made of material that does not easily transmit heat.


The floor is made of concrete in the feeding and standing area. It can be made of mud in the resting areas and provided with bedding. While constructing the concrete floor care has to be taken as dairy animals can weigh over 500 kgs and sometimes up to 700 kgs which might cause the floors to break if not constructed properly. The areas where cows or buffaloes walk must be slip resistant and gentle to them. The floor should also be designed so that fluids such as urine should drain easily and the floor should be as dry as possible.


A concrete feed manger is one where feed and fodder are served to animals. It should be elevated one foot from the ground. In low-cost farms, you can use concrete pipes which can be cut into two pieces. This is the cheapest way of creating a manger where feed can be given to animals. At the base of the manger, iron rings can be fitted at every 3 feet distance. The rings can be used to tie the animals while milking.

Water Troughs

Dairy animals should get ample amounts of fresh and clean water at all times. Each compartment in a dairy farm should have two water troughs. They can be placed on opposite sides so that cows should be able to reach easily the water trough nearest to them. If any of the troughs gets empty or becomes defective then the other trough can be used by the animals for some time.

Milking & Feeding Area:

In a small dairy farm, normally milking can be done where the animals stand to feed or near the manger. In a loose housing system, animals are tied during milking in small farms. The milking area is the same as the feeding area in small farms.

Dairy Farming Operations


Milking is the most important part of the daily management of the farm. Hand milking, machine, and robotic milking are the ways of milking dairy animals. In hand milking you have three methods: full hand, stripping, and knuckling. In full-hand milking, you will have to grasp the teat with all five fingers and press it against the palm. In stripping you have to hold the teat between the thumb and the forefingers and draw it down the length of the teat and press it during milking. The third process is knuckling where you bend the thumb and press it against the teat. This is not a recommended method because it has the possibility of injuring the teat tissue during milking and obstructs the proper letdown of milk. The most commonly used and beneficial method of hand milking is full hand milking. This is because it resembles the suckling motion of a calf. If you have more animals and less labor available in your area then you cannot use hand milking. Instead, you should use milking machines.

milking in dairy farm


Dairy animals need to breed like any other mammal. Once it breeds and gives birth to a calf, milk production starts. The calf is separated from the mother as this practice provides a safe environment for the calf and reduces the stress on the mother. It also prevents the transmission of diseases in the calf and reduces the overall mortality on the farm. The milk produced by a dairy animal is more than what a calf can consume. Excess feeding of milk and sudden changes in the amount of milk fed to a calf might lead to health issues. For a dairy animal to follow its natural life cycle, artificial insemination (AI) is done. Contrary to the belief that some people hold, AI has been able to prevent the transmission of venereal diseases that would be transmitted through a bull (natural service).

AI in dairy farming


Nutrition of Dairy Animals which means what you feed them is very important for making profits in dairy business. Lots of dairy farms close down because they do not know about nutrition. In dairy farming cost of feed and fodder accounts for 60 to 70 % of the total costs of maintaining the farm. It is important to ensure that you have a constant supply of fodder so that the health of animals and milk production is not affected. Hence a combined strategy of using green fodder, dry fodder, silage and concentrates has to be used. A dairy farm feeding the same feed and fodder to all types and sizes of animals will not be able to make profits. The feeding ratio has to be based on body weights, growth stages of cows, and quality of feed and fodder. Adequate amounts of proteins, amino acids, carbohydrates, fat, vitamins, and minerals need to be supplemented to keep animals in good health. Advanced feeding strategies include feeding bypass fats and Rumen undegraded proteins to dairy animals.

feeding nutritious fodder to dairy animals

Other farm operations:

Vaccination, Deworming, Hoof Trimming, and Pest Management are some of the other operations that need to be carried out on a dairy farm. Regular measurement of the weight of animals, removal of waste, and conversion to manure need to be done. Ensuring the bio-security of the farm by adopting scientific practices are some of the jobs that need to be done throughout the year.

How many dairy farms are there in developing countries?

India alone has more than 7.5 million dairy farms. Pakistan has 15 million, Africa has around 5 million, and Brazil has around 1.3 million dairy animals. Dairy farming has proved to be a very efficient and sustainable livelihood mechanism in developing countries. Although most of them are smallholder dairy farms, effective recycling of waste into nutrient-rich manure has helped reduce the use of chemical fertilizers in some pockets. Vermicomposting from farm manure has also been able to reduce the use of fertilizers and add to the incomes of farmers.

What is the future of dairy farming?

The future of dairy farming is bright in developing countries. As per the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), 0.8 to 1 gm of protein per kg body weight per day is required by an adult human. However, the average intake is lower (o.6 gm) than the recommended dietary allowance. Dietary protein is provided through cereals, meat and milk, and milk products. Cereal-based proteins have poor digestibility and quality. India is a largely vegetarian country and will have to rely on milk and milk products for its protein requirement. Most people in developing countries spend their money on food as their income increases. Hence the future for dairy and dairy products is bright from a demand perspective. With the average land holding continuing to decline, dairy farming is steadily witnessing an increase in herd size and mechanization. However, with low labor availability and an increase in credit to entrepreneurs, mechanization will increase. Increasing the use of sex-sorted semen in farms will increase the birth of healthy female calves with positive genetic traits such as resistance to disease, high milk yield, and tolerance to warm climates. All these trends will eventually improve dairy productivity, animal health, and the incomes of dairy entrepreneurs.

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