Dairy Cattle BAG205

Improve Your Knowledge and Skills in Dairy Farming

Build a solid foundation in the principles of dairy farming. Study breeds, production, and management strategies for both facilities and general business. A very practical course for small and large farms alike.

Course Duration: 100 hours

Course Structure

There are 9 lessons in this course.

  1. Dairy Breeds
    • Comparison of dairy breeds
      • Ayrshire
      • Guernsey
      • Jersey
      • Holstein
      • Friesian
      • A.F.S. (Australian Friesian Sahiwal)
      • Illawarra
    • Judging cattle: general appearance, dairy character, udder
  2. Dairy Products
    • The composition of milk
    • Factors affecting the composition of milk
    • Environmental and physiological factors
  3. The Lactation Cycle
    • Explain the management of the lactation cycle in dairy cattle, on a farm property
    • Influence of the farmer on:
      • lactation
      • infertile cows
      • feeding
      • the milking shed
      • planning for feed-flow
  4. Pests & Diseases of Dairy Cattle
    • Manage the wellbeing of a dairy cow
    • Optimising quality and quantity of production
    • Treatment techniques
    • Dry cow therapy
    • bacterial diseases in cattle
    • Disease types in cattle
  5. Feeding Dairy Cattle
    • Manage the wellbeing of a dairy cow
    • working out dairy rations
    • maintenance requirements for a dairy cow
    • the dairy ration
    • working out the cost of dairy rations
  6. Managing Dairy Cattle
    • Manage general husbandry operations for the dairy cow
    • Managing the heifer
    • Age of breeding
    • factors affecting milk yield
  7. Breeding Dairy Cattle
    • Significance of animal breeding programs for milk production
    • Selection
    • Artificial selection
    • Regression
    • Disadvantages of inbreeding
    • Performance testing
    • Artificial insemination
    • Ova transplants
  8. Managing Dairy Facilities
    • Explain the management of the facilities, including buildings and machinery at a farm dairy
    • Basic requirements of all dairies
    • Cooling of milk
    • Machine milking
    • Components of a milking machine
    • Choosing a system
    • Different types of systems
  9. Dairy Business Planning
    • Develop a business plan for the management of a dairy property
    • Economics of dairying
    • Business plan example

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Improve Milk Quality

There are a number of factors which can affect the composition of milk and these can be divided conveniently into:

  • Environmental factors
  • Physiological factors

Remember that the farmer can do little to improve the milk by changing the physiology (bodily make up) of the cow. Milk traits have a low heritability and are not easily passed from parent to offspring. The farmer can, however, make some improvement to milk yields and compositions by changing the environment of the cow.

Depending on the factor, the improvement can be short-lived (if the cow adapts to the better environment and reverts to her normal yields) or long-lasting (for example, milking quietly and fully will result in lasting improved quality).

Many things can affect the composition of milk, including both the physiology of the cow, and the environmental conditions which the animal is living under.

Environmental Factors

  • Feed
  • Weather
  • Stage of milking
  • Incomplete milking
  • Frequency of milking
  • Disturbance
  • Dipping

Physiological Factors

  • Individuality of cow
  • Breed
  • Course of lactation
  • Gestation
  • Age of cow
  • Oestrus
  • Disease

Many of these factors affect not only the composition of the milk but also the quantity of the milk. As a general rule, anything that reduces the amount of milk given by the cow will improve the composition (and increase the butterfat, especially). One way of explaining this is to think that the cow produces a certain amount of fat which is then diluted by the amount of "milk" she makes. Anything that reduces the amount of milk will increase the percentage of fat in the milk and vice versa.

Environmental Factors Explained


The food that a cow eats has a great influence on the amount of milk produced but much less influence on milk composition. One important way in which feed does affect the composition of the milk is in the acetic to propionic acid balance in the stomach

Propionic acid reduces the fat content of milk while increasing the protein content while acetic acid has the opposite affect. Therefore, a ration which is made up to encourage the maximum milk production and protein content is not always the best ration for the production of milk fat.

Other ways in which feed can affect the composition of the milk are as follows:

  • it does not alter the percentage of fat permanently;
  • feeding any food with a high proportion of oil or fat will increase the fat percentage of milk for a short time only;
  • fish liver oils will reduce the fat percentage;
  • certain feeds can alter the nature of the fat in milk by changing the fatty acids;
  • a reduction or change in feed will reduce the milk yield and so increase the fat percentage;
  • feeding can influence the vitamin content of the milk;
  • poor feeding, or feeding a ration that is not balanced for milk production, can reduce the solids-not-fat content of the milk;
  • rations with low bran contents result in a reduction of the milk fat content. Research has shown that the complete ration should contain at least 18% bran;
  • young, juicy pastures; high concentrates : low roughage mixes and finely carved roughage all lead to low milk fat contents;
  • an intake of 2.5 to 3.5 kg of hay per cow per day is necessary to prevent a decrease in the fat percentage when high-concentrate rations are fed;
  • increasing the number of concentrate feedings from two to four (or even six) a day can increase the fat content of milk to a certain extent; and
  • malnutrition in the dry period (when lactation has finished) or when lactation begins again will reduce the milk yield and fat content of the total lactation period


Rainfall and temperature influence the growth and composition of the forage and so influence the quality of the grazing. This, in turn, will affect the composition of the milk. When temperatures go above 27°C the protein content of the milk may drop but the butterfat content increases slightly. Prolonged cold weather tends to reduce milk production and so increase the fat percentage.

Stages of Milking

When a cow is milked, the first milk taken from the udder (called the foremilk) is low in fat. The milk taken last from the udder (called the strippings) is high in fat. If a cow is not milked out completely, the total fat percentage of her milk will be reduced.

Incomplete Milking

If a cow is not milked out properly, the fat-rich strippings are left in the udder leaving the extracted milk low in fat. Inefficient milk hands who cannot win the trust of the cow are not able to milk out a cow completely and often cause her to be nervous. This will reduce the milk flow. Incomplete milking can occur if the cow is upset for other reasons during milking. Noise and pain from the milking machine are common reasons. Sometimes the cow is deliberately milked incompletely so that the calf can drink the fat-rich strippings.

Frequency of Milking

When cows are milked twice a day at equal intervals (every 12 hours) - the fat content of the milk will be the same at each milking. Where the milking intervals are uneven, the cows will give less milk after the shorter interval but this milk will have the highest butterfat percentages. Where cows are milked three or four times a day, the milk which is extracted in the middle of the day will contain a little more fat.


When cows are disturbed during milking, or just before milking, their milk yield is reduced. They do not "let down" their milk.  This has the effect of raising the fat content of the milk. Over-exercise (such as a very long walk to the milking shed causes a considerable decrease in milk production.


Cows become used to the routine of dipping and this should have no real effect provided it is done quietly and at the same time each week.

Physiological Factors Explained

An overview of physiological factors affecting the dairy cow.

Individuality of the Cow

Individual cows vary a great deal in both composition and quantity of milk produced. Selection and a sound breeding program within a herd should help to even out the performance of individual cows within that herd.

Praise for this course:

"The course was put together very well. It covered all the important aspects of dairy farming and offered some important practical hands-on information that other courses lacked. I thoroughly enjoyed it and feel now that I have equipped myself to work on a dairy farm."

K. Mackenzie

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Fee Information (S2)
Prices in Australian Dollars

PlanAust. PriceOverseas Price
A 1 x $781.66  1 x $710.60
B 2 x $416.96  2 x $379.05

Note: Australian prices include GST. 

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