Career Profile: Agricultural Dairy Herdsperson
For many people, drinking a glass of milk is as simple as going to the refrigerator and pouring the liquid into a glass. However, many steps go into getting milk from cows and into stores, where people can buy it. The work of an agricultural dairy herdsperson is an essential part of this process.
For city people, it might seem easy to look after a herd of dairy cattle. However, a great deal of knowledge goes into the job. Often, completing an apprenticeship is the first step for people who want to work in this trade. This apprenticeship is 480 hours long, with 381 hours of theory and 99 hours of practical work. During this time, students learn to recognize potential problems that the cattle might experience, find out about the food the animals eat, and anything else they should know.
Working as a dairy herdsperson is about much more than moving animals from one place to another. People in this trade should know how to maintain automated machinery, such as the milking machines. Caring for breeding cattle and ensuring that the calves are born safely is an important part of the job. This might involve giving the animals shots to help prevent diseases.
Cleaning the barn and working areas can help keep the animals and people healthy. Taking care of their comfort with straw in the stalls can help keep the animals happy. In some cases, dairy herdspeople might need to supervise other workers.
Paperwork and education are also part of this job. Keeping track of each cow’s health and particular needs is important so that the farmer knows what kinds of veterinary care the animals require. People in this trade should also be sure to watch each animal for any changes in behaviour or health. Taking courses or attending workshops can also help give herdspeople the chance to learn new techniques and to develop necessary skills.
Dairy herding jobs generally start at salaries of just under $30,000 per year. With experience, people can earn almost $40,000 per year, although it depends on the size of the farm and other factors. Individuals may start as an employee or contractor, and work their way up to manager or even owner of a farm. Work can be available in any rural area, but people are more likely to find jobs on large farms. The best areas to find work are Quebec and Ontario, but other provinces also have opportunities for people in this trade.
Like many trade jobs, working as a dairy herdsperson can be strenuous. Milking cattle usually happens early in the morning, and so people in this trade should be prepared to get up before dawn and get to bed early. Much of the work is in cold barns or outdoors, where the weather can be cold or stormy. The cattle can also be stubborn or otherwise difficult, and some of the animals’ health problems could be hard to solve.
Having a certain amount of physical strength and endurance is important in this job to be able to deal with some of the challenges. However, herdspeople also need to be able to cooperate with other workers and to be able to understand and follow directions.
Working with animals like dairy cattle could be an ideal trade for people who like to deal with animals and to work outdoors. It might be the best choice for you.
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Career Explorer. “What Does a Dairy Herdsperson Do?” https://www.careerexplorer.com/careers/dairy-herdsperson/.
Horner, Joe and Ryan Milhollin. “Dairy Grazing: Dairy Career Paths.” University of Missouri. https://extension.missouri.edu/publications/m193.
Ontario College of Trades. “Agricultural—Dairy Herdsperson.” https://www.collegeoftrades.ca/wp-content/uploads/CTS-DAIRY_HERDSPERSON_640D_EN.pdf.
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