Dairy Cattle BAG205

Improve your knowledge and skills in dairy farming.

  • The dairy industry has changed; and is likely to keep changing. 
  • Recent decades have seen shifts in marketing, technology, value adding
  • While many farmer departed dairying in recent decades; demand for dairy products globally has never been stronger. 
  • There is a very real demand for dairy farming expertise in Australia - talk to us to discover how 

Change brings opportunity, if you understand the basics of dairy production and have a willingness to adapt and change with the times.

This course provides a solid foundation; and attempts to build a forward thinking attitude toward the opportunities that are likely to present as you move forward in the business of dairying.

ACS Student Comment: "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, Dairy Cattle course.

This is a very practical foundation course; providing unique and extensive support from highly  qualified and industry experienced experts. If you want to learn about dairy cattle and their management, this is the course for you.

There are 9 lessons as follows:

1. Dairy Breeds
Comparison of dairy breeds: the 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: protein, lactose, ash, 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. The 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, including consideration of its health and vigour, to optimise quality and quantity of production (Part a – pests & diseases), mastitis, correct treatment techniques, dry cow therapy, viral & bacterial diseases in cattle, disease types in cattle
5. Feeding Dairy Cattle
Manage the wellbeing of a dairy cow, including consideration of its health and vigour, to optimise quality and quantity of production (Part b - nutrition), 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, management of the dairy cow, factors affecting milk yield
7. Breeding Dairy Cattle
Explain the 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

Each lesson culminates in an assignment which is submitted to the school, marked by the school's tutors and returned to you with any relevant suggestions, comments, and if necessary, extra reading.

  • Select appropriate dairy breeds for different farming situations.
  • Describe the different characteristics, including their nature and scope, of dairy products.
  • Explain the management of the lactation cycle in dairy cattle, on a farm property.
  • Manage general husbandry operations for the dairy cow.
  • Manage the well being of a dairy cow, including consideration of its health and vigour, to optimise quality and quantity of production.
  • Explain the significance of animal breeding programs for milk production.
  • Explain the management of the facilities, including buildings and machinery, at a farm dairy.
  • Develop a business plan for the management of a dairy property.


Here are just some of the things you will be doing:
  • Distinguish between three different breeds of dairy cattle, which are either significant in the learner's locality, or have potential in the learner's locality, including:
    • size
    • appearance
    • preferred conditions
    • milk
    • cost per head.
  • Evaluate the suitability of three different dairy cattle breeds to a specified property, in a locality with which the learner is familiar.
  • Select three appropriate dairy cattle breeds for each of four specified situations, with regard to:
    • pasture varieties
    • climatic conditions (eg. temperature and weather patterns)
    • locality
    • market requirements for the product
  • Judge a dairy cow, using a standard score card, such as the dairy cow unified score card produced (and revised in 1982) by the Purebred Dairy Cattle Association.
  • List the different dairy products which are commonly available, in the learner's locality.
  • Describe the composition of milk, with reference to different characteristics, including:
    • sediment
    • bacteria count
    • chemical impurities
    • somatic cell count
    • added water
    • flavour
  • Explain the different types of flavours in milk, referring to both cause and prevention factors, and using relevant terminology, including:
    • feed
    • rancid
    • flat
    • unclean
    • foreign
    • salt
    • acid
    • oxidised flavours
  • Explain how milk composition can affect its use for different purposes.
  • Explain how milk is processed, on a property visited by the learner, including the process of pasteurisation (sanitisation).
  • Explain how cheese is made, on a specific property.
  • Explain how yogurt is made, on a specific property.
  • Explain how milk is processed to obtain cream, at a typical dairy.
  • Describe the lactation cycle of a dairy cow.
  • List the farm husbandry factors which can influence the lactation cycle.
  • Explain how three different variations in a cow's diet may affect lactation.
  • Prepare a plan for a feed flow program to support milk production on a specified property.
  • Produce a log book record of management tasks carried out, over a period of 1 month, to control the lactation cycle in dairy cattle on a specified property.
  • Milk a cow, verifying the proper undertaking of the task.
  • List the routine husbandry tasks carried out on different dairy cows, including those in milk and those that are dry.
  • Explain the routine husbandry tasks carried out on two different types of dairy cows, including those in milk and those that are dry.
  • Compare the management of heifers with that of milking cows on a specified dairy farm.
  • Describe the management of dairy cattle for meat production on a specified dairy farm.
  • Evaluate a production system on a dairy farm, in a locality familiar to the learner.
  • List the pests and diseases that are significant for dairy cattle in the learner's locality.
  • Develop a checklist for the signs of ill health, which should be routinely checked, in dairy cattle.
  • Describe three significant pests or diseases of dairy cattle, including mastitis.
  • Explain treatments for three different pests or diseases in dairy cattle.
  • Explain the irregularities which can occur in the functioning of the digestive system of dairy cattle.
  • Distinguish between a maintenance ration and production ration for a dairy cow.
  • Explain the nutritional requirements of a typical dairy cow on a specific property.
  • Calculate the rations for a dairy cow in accordance with specified characteristics, including:
    • weight
    • quantity of milk being produced
    • butterfat concentration
  • Prepare a collection of pasture plant species from two different dairy properties, and including:
    • samples of plants (ie. pressings of different plants in the pasture)
    • comments on the suitability of the pasture for dairy cattle.
  • Produce a twelve month plan to manage the vigour of dairy cattle, on a specified property, which includes:
    • a list of disease management procedures
    • feed program variations throughout the year
  • Explain a breeding program in use for dairy herd improvement on a specified property.
  • Explain the artificial insemination methods used with dairy cattle on a specified property.
  • List the criteria for selecting cattle for a dairy breeding program, in a locality which is familiar to the learner.
  • Plan a hypothetical breeding program, to improve milk quality and production for dairy cattle.
  • List the minimum physical facilities required for a viable dairy farm.
  • List factors affecting the siting of a dairy on a farm.
  • Prepare a plan for the construction of dairy facilities on a specified site, including:
    • sketch or concept plans of buildings, fencing surrounding buildings, and interior layout
    • a list of materials, including types and quantities required for construction
    • a list of equipment to be installed
    • a schedule of construction tasks
  • Develop a profile of an ideal dairy farm site.
  • Select the machinery needed to operate a specified, hypothetical dairy farm.
  • Develop a maintenance program for dairy farm machinery, on a farm investigated by the learner.
  • Explain the operation of typical milking machinery.
  • Explain the significance of farm water to the operation of a dairy farm.
  • Develop procedures for control of goods on a typical dairy farm, including:
    • ordering
    • receipt
    • dispatch
  • Explain two different ways to manage waste effluent from a typical dairy.
  • Develop guidelines for safe working practices at a typical dairy farm.
  • Explain legal requirements which are relevant to a dairy farm in a specified location.
  • Report on research, conducted by the learner from an information search, into innovations in the dairy industry.
  • Report on the implementation of recent innovations in the dairy industry.
  • List factors affecting profitability of a dairy property.
  • Explain factors affecting the cost of dairy production on a specified farm.
  • Write a job specification for one member of staff on a specific dairy property.
  • Develop criteria for assessing the management of a dairy property.
  • Prepare or evaluate a dairy farm budget for a specified property.
  • Prepare or evaluate a dairy farm financial report for a specified property.
  • Analyse marketing systems for marketing dairy products produced by a specified enterprise.
  • Explain factors affecting sales of dairy products on a specified farm.
  • Describe the selection and preparation of dairy cattle for sale in the learner's locality.
  • Develop a marketing plan for a specified dairy product which addresses:
    • product presentation
    • delivery of product
    • promotions
    • customer relations
  • Develop a business plan for a specified dairy property.
  • Describe how the sale of dairy meat can be managed, in accordance with a business plan, while adhering to relevant regulations.


Learn How to Improve Milk Quality

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

(a) Environmental factors
(b) Physiological factors

You will 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.


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


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

Try to remember at least some of them, especially those under Environmental Factors. These are the aspects that dairy farmers should be constantly assessing to see whether management (and thus milk yields and composition) can be improved.

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.


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

Proprionic 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.

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.





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