AskDefine | Define dairying

Dictionary Definition

dairying n : the business of a dairy [syn: dairy farming]

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. The business of owning and operating a dairy.

Extensive Definition

Dairy farming is a class of agricultural, or an animal husbandry enterprise, for long-term production of milk, which may be either processed on-site or transported to a dairy factory for processing and eventual retail sale. Most dairy farms sell the male calves born by their cows, usually for veal production, or breeding depending on quality of the Bull calf, rather than raising non-milk-producing stock. Many dairy farms also grow their own feed, typically including corn, alfalfa, and hay. This is fed directly to the cows, or is stored as silage for use during the winter season. Additional dietary supplements are added to the feed to increase quality milk production.

About dairy farming

Dairy farming has been part of agriculture for thousands of years, but historically, it was usually done on a small scale on mixed farms. Specialist scale dairy farming is only viable where either a large amount of milk is required for production of more durable dairy products such as cheese, or there is a substantial market of people with cash to buy milk, but no cows of their own.
Centralized dairy farming as we understand it primarily developed around villages and cities, where residents were unable to have cows of their own due to a lack of grazing land. Near the town, farmers could make some extra money on the side by having additional animals and selling the milk in town. The dairy farmers would fill barrels with milk in the morning and bring it to market on a wagon.
Before mechanization most cows were still milked by hand. At milking time they brought the vacuum pump, and the automatic milking machine.
The first milking machines were an extension of the traditional milk pail. The early milker device fit on top of a regular milk pail and sat on the floor under the cow. Following each cow being milked, the bucket would be dumped into a holding tank.
This developed into the Surge hanging milker. Prior to milking a cow, a large wide leather strap called a surcingle was put around the cow, across the cow's lower back. The milker device and collection tank hung underneath the cow from the strap. This innovation allowed the cow to move around naturally during the milking process rather than having to stand perfectly still over a bucket on the floor.
Surge later developed a vacuum milk-return system known as the Step-Saver, to save the farmer the trouble of carrying the heavy steel buckets of milk all the way back to the storage tank in the milkhouse. The system used a very long vacuum hose coiled around a receiver cart, and connected to a vacuum-breaker device in the milkhouse. Following milking each cow, the hanging milk bucket would be dumped into the receiver cart, which filtered debris from the milk and allowed it to be slowly sucked through the long hose to the milkhouse. As the farmer milked the cows in series, the cart would be rolled further down the center aisle, the long milk hose unwrapped from the cart, and hung on hooks along the ceiling of the aisle.
The next innovation in automatic milking was the milk pipeline. This uses a permanent milk-return pipe and a second vacuum pipe that encircles the barn or milking parlor above the rows of cows, with quick-seal entry ports above each cow. By eliminating the need for the milk container, the milking device shrank in size and weight to the point where it could hang under the cow, held up only by the sucking force of the milker nipples on the cow's udder. The milk is pulled up into the milk-return pipe by the vacuum system, and then flows by gravity to the milkhouse vacuum-breaker that puts the milk in the storage tank. The pipeline system greatly reduced the physical labor of milking since the farmer no longer needed to carry around huge heavy buckets of milk from each cow.
Innovation in milking focussed on mechanising the milking parlour to maximise throughput of cows per operator Machine Milking , which streamlined the milking process to permit cows to be milked as if on an assembly line, and to reduce physical stresses on the farmer by putting the cows on a platform slightly above the person milking the cows to eliminate having to constantly bend over. Many older and smaller farms still have tie-stall or stanchion barns, but worldwide a majority of commercial farms have parlours. Newer innovations include automatic take-off systems, which remove the milker from the cow when the milk flow reaches a preset level, computer to measure the production of each animal while it is milking, and computer chips that identify cows individually when they walk into a parlour so their feed intake and milk output can be monitored. These last three are becoming more common because of their value on large farms where it is hard to monitor each cow individually.
In the 1980s and 1990s robotic milking systems were developed and introduced (principally in the EU)Robotic Milking, proceedings of the international symposium, Lelystad, 17-19 th August 2000 Dairy farming is also an important industry in Florida, Minnesota, Ohio and Vermont.
In Pennsylvania, the dairy industry is the number one industry in the state. Pennsylvania is home to 8,500 farms and 555,000 dairy cows. Milk produced in Pennsylvania yields about US$1.5 million in farm income every year, and is sold to various states up and down the east coast.
The world's largest exporter of dairy products is New Zealand. Japan is the world's largest importer of dairy products.
There follows two lists of countries by milk production (MT = million tonnes).
Table 1: World production not including countries in the European Union.
Source, unless otherwise noted:
The EU is the largest milk producer in the world, with 143.7 million tonnes in 2003. This data, encompassing the present 25 member countries, can be further broken down into the production of the original 15 member countries, with 122 million tonnes, and the new 10 mainly former Eastern European countries with 21.7 million tonnes.
Table 1: Milk production data for EU countries.
Source, unless otherwise noted:

Dairy competition

Most milk-consuming countries have a local dairy farming industry, and most producing countries maintain significant subsidies and trade barriers to protect domestic producers from foreign competition . In large countries, dairy farming tends to be geographically clustered in regions with abundant natural water supplies (both for feed crops and for cattle) and relatively inexpensive land (even under the most generous subsidy regimes, dairy farms have poor return on capital). New Zealand, the fourth largest dairy producing country, does not apply any subsidies to dairy production .
The milking of cows was traditionally a labor-intensive operation and still is in less developed countries. Small farms need several people to milk and care for only a few dozen cows, though for many farms these employees have traditionally been the children of the farm family, giving rise to the term "family farm".
Advances in technology have mostly led to the radical redefinition of "family farms" in industrialized countries such as the United States. With farms of hundreds of cows producing large volumes of milk, the larger and more efficient dairy farms are more able to weather severe changes in milk price and operate profitably, while "traditional" very small farms generally do not have the equity or cashflow to do so. The common public perception of large corporate farms supplanting smaller ones is generally a misconception, as many small family farms expand to take advantage of economies of scale, and incorporate the business to limit the legal liabilities of the owners and simplify such things as tax management.
Before large scale mechanization arrived in the 1950s, keeping a dozen milk cows for the sale of milk was profitable . Now most dairies must have more than one hundred cows being milked at a time in order to be profitable, with other cows and heifers waiting to be "freshened" to join the milking herd . In New Zealand the average herd size, depending on the region, is about 350 cows
Herd size in the US varies between 1,200 on the West Coast and Southwest, where large farms are commonplace, to roughly 50 in the Northeast, where land-base is a significant limiting factor to herd size. The average herd size in the U.S. is about one hundred cows per farm.


External links

dairying in German: Milchproduktion
dairying in Spanish: Industria láctea
dairying in Hindi: दुग्ध कृषि
dairying in Hebrew: רפת
dairying in Lithuanian: Pieno pramonė
dairying in Dutch: Melkveehouderij
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