Dairy farming

Starting Your Own Dairy Enterprises And Becoming A Dairy Farmer In South Africa

Host Country

South Africa

Target Audience


Program Overview

1st, there is legislation concerning the setting and construction of dairy complex. In this article, we will specify the 4 Major Things You Need to Know Before Starting Your Own Dairy Farm:

  1. create a business plan
  2. buying the farm
  3. buying the cattle
  4. buying machinery

A dairy farm is a company that specializes in the long-term production of milk, which can then be processed on-site or at a dairy plant. The legislation is crafted to ensure max hygiene and production of clean milk .Not only it should produce quantum milk, but must also be free from debris, microbes and must remain so, till it is consumed. Raw milk quickly becomes sour when it is stored for long periods at high ambient temperatures prevalent in tropical and subtropical countries.

This is because, the inherent lactic acid bacteria and contaminating microorganisms from milk vessels or the environment break down the lactose in milk to lactic acid. When sufficient lactic acid has accumulated, the milk becomes sour and coagulates. Raw milk that contains too much lactic acid, even if it does not appear to be curdled, will coagulate when heated. This acidity is known as “developed acidity” and such milk is not acceptable for sale.

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Like any other business, a dairy farm is successful when managers and/or owners focus on sustainable growth, specifically on elements like: 

  • Understanding the biological processes that drive raw milk production and the technology that can support them. The right equipment and tools can facilitate operations inside a dairy farm business for better health and safety policies and increased efficiency. 
  • Operating day-to-day activities profitably with respect for the environment and the final product. Successful dairy farm managers know how to optimize livestock feeding and herd size to control costs and ensure consistent milk production. 
  • Making educated, long-term investments to protect their assets and increase profitability over time. Keeping track of farm costs and returns and identifying new ways to control costs without sacrificing quality can make the dairy farm more profitable in the long run. 

They Are 4 Major Fundamentals Of Establishing Dairy

In this article, we will specify the 4 Things You Need to Know Before Starting Your Own Dairy Farm:

1. Create a business plan

  • Plan farm set-up
  • Plan out manure management, cow management (herd health practices, feed rations, breeding schedules, calving, weaning etc) human resources, 
  • Plan the milking cows, harvesting crops, etc
  • Cost your dairy plan

You Need To Calculate The cost of starting dairy

  • Document basic information on spreadsheet
  • First, establish total area required (area for pasture/grazing, functional buildings/ storage, and manure)
  • Establish the number of animals that you can house on the property.

They Are Fundamental Costs You need to calculate such as:

  • Fixed (rent;)
  • Variable (fuel, feed, fertilizer, cattle prices for selling culls and bull calves, maintenance for machinery, etc
  • Operating (costs of feeding cows, milk production, veterinary bills, feed bills, etc) and
  • Depreciation costs (machinery, building, livestock, and equipment)
  • Cost per cow
  • Cost of feed per cow

Calculate carrying capacity of the Farm:

  • For instance in  South Africa and Zimbabwe, its guided by natural regions, in some countries like Canada, they purchase a quota before or during the start-up process.

2. Buying the farm

  • They are 3 criteria to be considered when choosing a farm to buy :

Criteria 1 – Feeds

  • Feeds make a major cost of production, dairy suited to high rainfall areas,
  • Supplements and high quality roughages are expensive relative to nutritive value
  • Capacity to produce almost all roughages and supplements.
  • Should support at least 80 cows in milk and their followers

Criteria 2 – Environment

  • Dairy animals shouldn’t  walk over 4 km/day
  • Climbing up and down hills wastes time and energy
  • The dairy complex (parlour, dairy rooms, calf housing and cow housing and feedlots) to be on elevated site of free draining soils
  • Need borehole water for clean water, and plenty of shed to reduce heat stress

Criteria 3: Proximity to markets

  • Dairy milk is a highly perishable product, needs relatively quick transport to processing
  • Transport cost can reduce profits (up to 15% of income)
  • Farm should be not more than 60 km from milk processing centre

3. Buying Cattle

  • Buy in-calf heifers from herds with good records, bred from AI, certified free of brucellosis
  • Select a breed that fits available feed resources
  • Holstein can produce 10 000 L of milk per lactation
  • In NR 4 and 5, you need animals with potential yields of 5000 to 6000L e.g Red Dane and some dual purpose breeds

4. Buying Machinery

  • There are three main components of dairy farm machinery:

    – Milking machine

    – Irrigation & cropping and

    – waste disposal

The milking Machine

  • Hand milking is labour intensive but requires limited capital
  • Can start by hand-milking, disadvantage is that changing from one system to another make animals prone to mastitis
  • The bucket system is also cheaper and convertible with any higher system
  • Herringborne with post feeding facilities is favored for large herds

The Cropping Machinery

  • A herd of 80 requires at least 20 ha silage maize and 30 ha maize grain
  • Need tractors, disc hurrow, row marker, planter, boom spray, fertiliser applicator, silage cutter, mower conditioner, flail harvester, bailer and a hammer mill
  • First invest in equipment to mow and ensile crop/grass


  • Installing irrigation system can be expensive, consider opportunity cost
  • Irrigation is appropriate in large scale farms with high yielding animals and high quality winter pasture like midmar rye grass
  • Can be connected to waste disposal

Conclusively, All dairy farms are different based on the producer’s wishes, resource requirements, market needs and more. Multiple systems exist and can be profitable. Some producers contract out their replacements to a custom heifer raiser while others diversify by selling crops, raising steers or creating a home-bottling plant. How you farm will depend on your desires, resources, and drive.

Any questions and comments About setting up a dairy complex , you my leave in the comment section below and our team will assist and respond to you immediately.

Special thanks to prof Chris Murungweni the dairy specialist

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God bless and All the best !!

Chivalrous Curie

Dr Jacinth Anesu Kuri is a certified Animal Production Scientist from Harare Zimbabwe. He is the CEO of a prominent NGO in Zimbabwe called Agric Tech Opportunities. He is the founder of AgricTech Charities Foundation. Trained by Campuslifestyle to be an IT expect and Web developer And Chief Blogger.

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