How to start a dairy farm?

Lot of folks ask me on the steps to start a dairy farm. This post explains the process to successfully start a 30 buffalo farm.

Whether it is dairy farm or for that matter any venture – you need to get your basics right.

  • Before starting: You need to have a real desire and be passionate about what you wanted to do. This is especially important for starting a dairy farm because it is very labour intensive and requires lots of patience with little support from society. And also you need support from family.
  • Acquire Knowledge: Businesses are either inherited from parents or you work in that line and then start off on your own. But if you did not inherit or work in a farm – I suggest attend a training on dairy farming, visit both successful and failed farms and then work in a dairy farm for two months. By end of this exercise, you will understand if you can survive in dairy farming.
  • Arrange Money: You need to have the money to start the farm. Consider land, shed construction, livestock procurement, etc. You can approach banks to get loans and there is also subsidy from NABARD – but its not easy to get dairy loans from banks. To get loans, you need to prepare a dairy project report. Check this link for more details on how much it costs to start a 30 buffalo dairy farm.
  • Farm Location: If you don’t already own land, it will be almost financially nonviable to start a dairy farm as the land rates are very expensive. Farm location should ideally be within 10 kms distance from a town to easily sell the milk and by-products.
  • Dig a Bore well and get electric connections: You need a 3 phase bore well for irrigating the green grass in 4 acres and a single phase bore well for farm water use.
  • Start Construction: For a 30 buffalo farm, you need a shed (75 feet x 30 feet), 1 small calve shed, 2 worker rooms (12 feet x 10 feet), 1 dhana/feed room (12 feet x 10 feet), and a room for yourself (12 feet x 10 feet) .
  • Cultivate Green Fodder: For 30 buffaloes, you need to cultivate at least 4 acres of green grass. You need to select the right type of fodder variety, prepare the land, either plant the slips like CO4 or sow the seeds. This should be done 70 to 80 days prior to animals arrive at the farm. So this task should be taken up parallel to construction work.
  • Purchase Machinery and tools: You will need a chaff cutter, a brush cutter, a diesel power generator (if you have power cuts) and other tools such as milk cans, etc.
  • Procure Dry Fodder: You need to procure dry fodder (vari gaddi) for up to 1 year. The quantity will depend on the quality of the dry fodder. The prices are usually cheaper after paddy harvest season and expensive in summer months. If it is a drought year, then the price will be higher as well.
  • Milk sales tie-up: You should have already tied up with someone to directly sell the milk or give it to milk agency (pala kendram). Try to find a good buyer such as a hotel, sweet shop, coffee shop and direct consumers – direct selling will increase your profit. But do not supply for credit (appu) – many people tend to very late on payments or cheat.
  • Hire Workers: This is one of the toughest things as the workers tend to leave without even informing. Make sure you have the right workers and you have backup plan to handle if they leave without notice. For every 10 buffaloes, you need 1 worker. If you are getting bihar workers, then you need at least 2 of them or else they will not stay. Make sure they are settled in farm before you go for purchasing buffaloes.
  • Purchase Animals: In our strategy, let’s buy buffaloes in 2 batches. In first batch, buy 19 murrah buffaloes and 1 bull. After 5 months, buy second batch of 10 buffaloes. We are buying 20 buffaloes in first batch because we have 2 bihar workers or else they will not stay and if we buy 10 buffaloes and have 2 workers you will lose money in salaries.  Purchasing a bull is a must in first batch. You would have already decided where to buy the Murrah buffaloes from – visit them at least once before you buy. If you are new to dairy farming, take an experienced dairy farmer with you when purchasing animals.
  • 1st Week: If the animals were purchased from far away distances – for instance if you had purchased it in haryana and transported it to Andhra – then they will take substantial time to recover from transportation stress. Calves would have died, loss of body weight and also undergo emotional stress as the climate, feed, workers are all different. Do veterinary check up as soon as they arrive. Wash 2 times a day. Feed good concentrate feed and mineral mixture. Give 20 kgs of chopped green fodder and 10 kgs of dry fodder. Give drinking water 3 times a day. Address all stress factors such as mosquitoes, unclean shed, avoid beating, avoid tying too close to each other, etc.
  • 3rd Week: You should have reached a stable state by 3rd week. Buffaloes should have regained weight and milk yield. Workers should be working in a clearly defined routine. Your total milk yield should be around 190 liters per day. Expect a failure of at least 1 buffalo – stopped giving milk because calf died or for whatever reason. You should consider yourself lucky if all of them are in stable state or unlucky if you have more than 1 failure.
  • 3rd Month: The milk yield will start to decline – it will be probably around 170 liters now. Start identifying heat and cross with bull as well as artificially inseminate with good semen – very very important task.
  • 5th Month: Now the milk yield will be around 140 liters. By now if 15 out of 19 buffaloes are pregnant again and have around 14 calves alive then you should consider yourself a success and will survive in this business. Now it is time to purchase second batch of 10 more buffaloes and add 1 more bihar worker. On the other hand, if you have drastic drop in milk yield, if most of your buffaloes are not pregnant, have serious worker problems, then it is time to evaluate, if you want to quit because you will be heavily losing money by feeding dry buffaloes.
  • 6th Month: Now the milk yield should be around 220 liters (120 from first batch of 19 and 100 liters from second batch of 10). Now all of the 19 buffaloes from first batch should be pregnant – if any buffalo is not pregnant then check for reproductive issues and start giving medicines. Now explore the option of making small batches of by-products such as ghee, khoa or paneer and directly sell it to sweet shops and hotels.
  • 8th Month: Now the milk yield should be around 170 liters (90 from first batch and 80 from second batch). Now you should start observing heat for second batch and crossing them with bull as well as artificially inseminate them. If you still have any dry animal which is not pregnant from first batch, you should sell it (mostly for half the price) and buy a new buffalo.
  • 11 month: Now the yield will be around 70 liters (10 liters from first batch and 60 liters from second batch). By now all of your second batch buffaloes should also be pregnant. From 11th to 13th months will be very tough because the all of the buffaloes are in early to late pregnancies. You need to be prepared for out of pocket expenses during this period as you have large herd with low milk output.
  • 13th Month: Basically you are into second year of operation. Now most of your of first batch of buffaloes should have given birth again and started yielding milk. And also second batch will nearing end of lactation and should be in mid-pregnancies. From now on, you should strive for a balance of 20-22 buffaloes in yielding phase and 8–10 buffaloes in dry period. This balance will allow to maintain a milk yield of around 200 liters. You also need to evaluate your calves – you need to retain all female calves and get rid of male calves unless if it has breeding potential as a bull.
  • Yearly Income and Expenses: One of the biggest yearly income is sale of manure/dung – a truck load sells for around Rs 2,500. With 30 buffaloes and 20 calves, you will get around 40 trucks of dung which will generate an income of 1 lakh. The same amount needs to be spent on purchasing dry fodder for the entire year.