On a daily basis, dairy farmers feed and care for cows, upkeep buildings and oversee breeding and marketing in their farming businesses. Dairy farmers' earnings fluctuate yearly due to variables such as demand for milk, weather conditions and government subsidies. Many work other jobs, in addition to farming, to make ends meet.
Education and Training
Dairy farmers typically have a high school diploma and acquire their knowledge of farming through work experience, a college education or both. University agriculture courses, often available through land-grant colleges, teach dairy farmers how to run their business efficiently and profitably. Common college courses include farm management, agronomy, basic veterinary science, dairy science and finance. In the case of family farms, family members pass know-how from generation to generation, along with land and cattle.
The Internet salary-survey website Salary Expert reports average earnings for dairy farmers. In 10 randomly selected cities averages for those earning in the lowest 10 percent were Pierre, South Dakota, $13,941; Miami, $14,934; Houston, $15,351; Augusta, Maine, $16,240; Bensalem, Pennsylvania, $17,080; Chicago, $17,526; Walla Walla, Washington, $17,595; Baltimore, $18,200; Washington, D.C., 18,619; and New York, $19,358. The lowest earning city in this sample was $5,417 less than the highest earning city.
The 2013 national average for dairy cattle farmers, according to Salary Expert, was $22,075. In a random sample of 10 cities, individual averages included Pierre, South Dakota, $18,352; Miami, $19,659; Houston, $20,208; Augusta, Maine, $21,378; Bensalem, Pennsylvania, $22,484; Chicago, $23,071; Walla Walla, Washington, $23,162; Baltimore, $23,958; Washington, D.C., $24,509; and New York, $25,483. The difference between the highest and lowest paying cities in this group was $7,131. Top earners in these cities earned $9,498 more than the national average.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) classifies dairy farmers in the farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural managers category. The Bureau predicts that job demand for this group will decline by eight percent through 2020. For comparative purposes, the Bureau predicts demand for all occupations to increase by 14 percent during this same time frame. The BLS cites factors including more efficient, factory-farming methods and increased costs as contributing to the decline in demand. Despite overall declines, some dairy farmers are carving a niche market in direct-to-consumer or humanely raised cattle programs.