How To Start A Dairy Farm?

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Milk is a staple in our diets and irrespective of what the season or the place is, milk is always in demand. Due to the increase in population, the demand for milk has also increased.  Milk production in India is expected to grow at 3-4% every year. Both small scale dairy farms and commercial dairy farms contribute significantly to the total milk production of milk and the economy in the country.  

If you’re looking into starting your own dairy farm, now is the best time to get into the business. Dairy farms require your contribution in terms of money, time and effort. Whatever your background or experience, whether you grew up on a farm or helped out with one, there are some things you need to consider before starting a food business on your own. This guide will help you through these things.

How To Start A Dairy Farm?

how to start a dairy business?

Develop a Business Plan

A dairy farm is essentially a business despite the perception people usually have about it. The first critical step for the success of a dairy farm or any other business is the development of a detailed business plan. So start with a developing a dairy farming business plan and conduct a SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) of your plan. This will help you assess the risks of your business. Also, include the resources you have available to you for the dairy farming business plan. Answer questions like:

  • How many cows will you milk?
  • Where will you sell your milk?
  • Will you hire employees?
  • Funds you will require to start and maintain your dairy farm?

Your business plan should include your finances and cash flow which will help you set your cost and selling price for your product.

Consult the Experts

No matter what experience you have, it’s important to consult experts in the concerned industry while developing a business plan. Talk to fellow producers, specialists, veterinarians, and bankers. You can attend workshops and seminars in your area. Remember to ask a lot of questions- what works for one dairy farm may not work for your dairy farm so get as much insight into the business as possible.

Research About the Business

There are a lot of different elements in a dairy farm. One of the main things you must do before starting your business is research. Carry out research about what species and breed of animal you would want to keep on your farm. The most common dairy animals are cows, goats, or water buffalos. Each one has a number of breeds, and you must choose which is best for you. You can contact agricultural and government institutions for information to help make the decision.  Rule out breeds that can’t thrive in your climate. Find out whether there is a local demand for a particular breed’s milk or dairy products. You will have to make a rough estimate of the time and money that raising a calf to milk-producing age requires. Make an informed decision about the same after you have done this research.

If you don’t have dairy farm experience already, take some time and learn about breeding, calving, manure management, weaning, milking cows and crop management. Farming takes a great deal of time, work and knowledge, that’s why it is important to conduct thorough research.

Plan Your Infrastructure

Good infrastructure plays an important role in keeping the animals healthy and disease free. You should be able to give your animals requisite space inside the farm. Generally, 40 square feet of a shed and 80 square feet of open space is required per animal.

For a small scale dairy production, you have to ensure the availability of a minimum of 1-acre of land approximately. Ensure the availability of all types of essential facilities on the farm such as proper ventilation, ample flow of clean, fresh air and sufficient, well-maintained space.

Create a Feeding and Waste Management Program

Consult a nutritionist to understand what the best rations are for lactating cows, dry cows, and heifers, as well as for calves buffaloes and goats. Whether you plan to feed mixed ration, graze cattle or use a combination of both, dairy cows require certain nutrients to produce milk and so do growing calves.

Dairy cattle produce a lot of manure, which, if managed properly can be a great resource to the farm. Manure management will be tied closely to the feeding plan. You can use manure for your farmland if you have a farm or can use it as biogas or give to farmers who need natural fertilizers. Every farm will need a manure management plan, but depending on the size of your farm, you might also need a nutrient management plan.  

Get Funding and Licenses

A farm requires a large one-time expenditure to get started. Buying an existing dairy farm makes the task easier and can save money if you can do the repairs yourself. Whether you plan on buying a farm or starting it all by yourself from scratch, you will need the following facilities:

  • A sterile facility for storing milk and for pasteurizing
  • Sheds or barns protected from weather
  • Milking parlour
  • Feed storage and manure storage
  • Equipment
  • Well for watering cattle
  • Irrigation system for pasture

The cost of these facilities will be a large part of the one-time expenditure. You will have to figure out where the funding for your business will come from. You can apply for bank loans or grants, or you can fund it yourself or team up with investors.

You will also require to get all the local licenses. Getting business licenses is one of the most important tasks in starting any small business. You must find out the licenses that are required in your State and acquire them before starting your own business.

Research Your Local Market

If you’re starting with just a few animals, talk to nearby dairy farmers for advice on selling to local stores and individuals. If you have a slightly larger herd, you can get a more stable income by selling the milk to a company that will handle distribution. Make sure that there is a co-op, shop, school, processor, in the vicinity as they are likely to buy your milk.

Market Your Business

Marketing your products is not a problem in India. Dairy products have a huge demand throughout India. You can even put your products on the market through social media or by creating a website, apart from the traditional marketing techniques. Find out the type of packaging your customer prefers. Some clients, for example, want plastic bottles, some prefer pouches and small packs while others may bring their own containers or simply require delivery in a can. Align your products with the local demand.

All these points are just like pieces of a puzzle. In order to succeed you will need to combine each piece of this puzzle called ‘dairy farm management’ into a whole picture termed ‘dairy farm plan’. For the puzzle to fall into place, work with trusted consultants to help you build a plan, and remember to stick with your strengths. For instance, if you love milking cows but hate managing their feeds or waste management, find someone to work with you who can handle the aspects that you cannot. You can even sign a contract to assign the working of some of the tasks to a third party. Create a team that understands you and your vision and works towards the progress of the dairy farm.