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Five Common Dairy Farming Risks and How to Avoid Them

The dairy farming industry has been a significant contributor to the American economy for centuries, accounting for more than 900,000 jobs in the United States today.  Globally, dairy is a universal agricultural production. It is a vital part of the worldwide food system and plays a key role in the sustainability of rural areas.

While every dairy operation is unique, they all have hazards that can have devastating impacts on owners, employees and their communities. The more aware you are of potential hazards, the better prepared you will be to prevent any serious incidents.

Animal health

The quality of an animal’s health impacts both the quality and the amount of milk produced. Because high morbidity rates cause low production, poor animal health decreases the productivity of your operation. Promoting the health of your animals will directly benefit your bottom line.

To maintain the health of your livestock, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations recommends establishing resistance to disease within the herd, preventing the entry of disease onto the farm, establishing effective herd health management and using all chemicals and veterinary medicines as directed.

Milking Hygiene 

While many small-scale dairy farmers have stuck to traditional methods of milking by hand, most large farms have shifted to machine milking. Any equipment used to retrieve and store milk must be well maintained.

Regardless of the milking method, dairy farmers must avoid contamination of the milk during and after milking. Best practices for milking hygiene include ensuring your milking routines do not injure the animals or introduce contaminants into the milk, performing milking operations under hygienic conditions and properly handling the product after milking.

Cow Behavior

Understanding cow behavior is vital to maintaining dairy farm safety. Livestock can be quite unpredictable, though gentle handling of both cows and heifers can help reduce kickers and result in a more productive and relaxed herd. Mistreated cows are more likely to be aggressive and lash out at farmers and employees.

Farmers should provide training on handling skills to all employees to ensure their safety and, when warranted, supervise employees. Training should include how to approach cows and an overview of the cows’ flight zone and point of balance.


While the quality and quantity of food largely impact an animal’s health and productivity, it also directly impacts the quality and safety of the milk. The Food and Agriculture Organization recommends these tips to keep your animals’ milk pristine:

  • Secure feed and water from sustainable sources.
  • Ensure animal feed is of sustainable quantity and quality.
  • Control storage conditions of feed.
  • Ensure the traceability of feedstuffs brought to the farm.

Manure Decomposition 

According to Progressive Dairy, barns that have had either a partial or a complete failure of the ventilation system pose a real risk to dairy operations. If ventilation isn’t up to code, your livestock and employees could be inhaling toxic gases created by the aerobic fermentation of organic matter. This is a life-threatening situation as it can result in death.

Proper training of employees can prevent disaster in the event of ventilation problems. Farmers should conduct drills for employees and provide emergency plans that deal specifically with ventilation issues. Always have the generator ready and train employees on its operation.

Happy, healthy cows in a clean environment make for a successful operation. James Allen Insurance’s dairy policy offers additional peace of mind.

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