Dairy Herdsman Career Profile

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A dairy herdsman is responsible for the daily care and management of dairy cattle.

Duties

A dairy herdsman is chiefly concerned with maintaining the health of the dairy herd and ensuring that milk production quotas are met.  To ensure herd health a dairy herdsman must monitor the health of all animals on the premises, take note of any behavioral changes, treat minor injuries or illnesses as they occur, trim hooves, give vaccinations and other injections, assist with calving, perform artificial inseminations, maintain comprehensive health and production records, and work closely in conjunction with the veterinarian.

The herdsman must also be qualified to operate milking machines and other equipment, troubleshooting any mechanical problems or other issues as they arise.  The milking parlor must be kept clean and up to the standards required by the dairy inspector. 

The herdsman must also manage dairy employees and other staff members, ensuring that all tasks are completed properly and in a timely fashion.  Additional duties may include transporting animals to and from auctions, raising hay or other forages, providing basic farm maintenance, or any additional duties as assigned by the farm owner.

Career Options

A dairy herdsman can move into many areas of dairy management as well as dairy ownership.  They can also transition into positions involving dairy inspection, beef herd management, cattle product sales, veterinary pharmaceutical sales, livestock feed sales, or other agricultural pursuits.

Education and Training

While there is no formal education requirement for dairy herdsmen, most have significant experience working with dairy cattle in a hands-on role.  It is important that dairy herdsmen have a good working knowledge of dairy cattle anatomy and physiology, reproduction, milk production, and nutritional requirements.

  Many individuals begin their journey to this title by working as dairy staff or assistant herdsmen. 

There are many four-year degree programs in animal science, dairy science, or other agricultural fields that can prepare a candidate for a dairy management career.  There are also one to two-year degree plans as well as industry “short courses” that run for just a few months and provide professional certificates in dairy fields.  For example, the Farm & Industry Short Course Program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison has a dairy management specialization option, offering both one and two-year certificates.  Other programs, such as the one offered by the University of Illinois, offer distance learning options that can be completed in an online format.

There are also many dairy internship programs that can provide valuable experience while training a student to become a successful part of the dairy management team.

Salary

Most U.S. dairy herdsman job postings reviewed in early 2015 had salaries that ranged from $30,000 to $50,000.  The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) found that the median pay for the general category of farmers, ranchers, and agricultural managers was $69,000 per year (though this includes many lucrative management roles for other agricultural careers and does not offer individual salary information that is specific to dairy herdsmen).

  In the United Kingdom, the salary is in a similar range: from 22,000 pounds for a new herdsman to more than 45,000 pounds for an experienced herdsman. 

Dairy herdsman positions often have a variety of associated fringe benefits in addition to the standard salary package.  Additional benefits often include free housing and utilities provided on the farm, the use of a farm truck, medical insurance, and paid vacation.

Career Outlook

According to data collected by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the demand for farmers, ranchers, and agricultural managers will decline over the decade from 2012 to 2022.  The decline may not be so marked for the specific category of dairy herdsmen since milk prices and production both remain strong components of the agricultural market.  Dairy herdsmen will also have the option of moving into other agricultural roles through the utilization of their transferable skills.