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Dairy Producer

Dairy producers operate dairy farms to produce bulk milk which goes to secondary processing to become table milk, cheese, ice cream, yogurt and other dairy products.

  • Avg. Salary $74,215.00
  • Avg. Wage $33.00
  • Minimum Education Varies
  • Outlook below avg
Also Known As

Farmer, Milk Producer

NOC & Interest Codes
The Dairy Producer is part of the following larger National Occupational Classification (NOC).
Farmers and Farm Managers
NOC code: 8251
DIRECTIVE

Interest in supervising and hiring farm workers; and in determining amounts and kinds of crops to be grown and livestock to be raised, and in purchasing farm machinery, livestock, seed, feed and other supplies

METHODICAL

Interest in co-ordinating information to plant, cultivate and harvest crops; and in raising and breeding livestock and poultry

OBJECTIVE

Interest in driving - operating and maintaining farm machinery, equipment and buildings

Reading Interest Codes
A Quick Guide

The interest code helps you figure out if you’d like to work in a particular occupation. 
It’s based on the Canadian Work Preference Inventory (CWPI), which measures 5 occupational interests: Directive, Innovative, Methodical, Objective and Social.

Each set of 3 interest codes is listed in order of importance.

A code in capital letters means it’s a strong fit for the occupation.

A code in all lowercase letters means the fit is weaker.

Learn More

Duties
Updated Dec 16, 2016

Dairy producers are owner-operators of small or medium-sized dairies who do most of the work themselves. Owners of large dairy farms may hire supervisors and herdsmen to help operate their businesses.

In general, duties on a dairy farm include:

  • milking, feeding, cleaning and caring for the dairy herd
  • cleaning and sanitizing milking equipment and milk storage tanks
  • managing programs for breeding cows and raising calves
  • inspecting and ensuring that sanitary conditions exist especially in the handling, collection and storage of milk
  • keeping records for the Canadian Quality Milk program, a Hazards Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) based program that requires annual audits  
  • hiring and supervising staff
  • using computer applications to keep production, breeding and financial records
  • producing, harvesting and storing feed crops (unless feed for animals is purchased).

After each milking, barns and equipment must be cleaned to keep conditions sanitary and safeguard the health of the dairy herd.

The dairy industry operates under a supply-management system which means that all dairy producers must obtain a quota from Alberta Milk before they can ship milk to processing plants. Once they obtain quota, they must be able to produce the specified amounts at all times.

Working Conditions
Updated Dec 16, 2016

Dairy producers work indoors in barns and dairy offices, and outdoors in all kinds of weather. Modern barns are well ventilated and manure is flushed out regularly.

Working hours are long and variable. Dairy producers must follow a very strict daily schedule, milking and feeding cows two or three times a day, 365 days a year.

Although automation and mechanization have helped to make the work less tedious and physically demanding, repetitive manual labour often is required. Dairy producers may routinely lift items weighing up to 20 kilograms or more. They must follow safety precautions to avoid injury when working with machinery and tools, wear protective clothing and follow good animal hygiene practices to prevent or control the spread of diseases.

  • Strength Required Lift up to 20 kg
Skills & Abilities
Updated Dec 16, 2016

Dairy producers need the following characteristics:

  • a responsible, caring attitude when handling equipment and animals
  • good organizational skills
  • patience and self-discipline
  • the ability to work independently and with a team
  • flexibility and adaptability
  • strength and stamina 
  • good co-ordination and manual dexterity
  • few allergies to grains, feeds, animals or dust.

They should enjoy working with animals, taking a methodical approach to their work, and operating machinery and equipment.

Educational Requirements
Updated Dec 16, 2016

Dairy production is a highly specialized business that requires computer skills and knowledge related to animal welfare, herd health, breeding and reproduction, feed, mechanics, related technologies, marketing and business management. Related post-secondary education and work experience are definite assets, especially for managers.

The Alberta Green Certificate Program offered through the Government of Alberta is an apprenticeship-style training that combines hands-on farm mentorship with formal education.

The Green Certificate is a complimentary program of study available to students of all Alberta high schools. There are various specializations offered (for example, dairy production and field crop production) at each level. Graduates of the Level I Green Certificate Program are certified as farm production technician and may earn up to 16 credits towards their high school diploma for each specialization completed. Levels II (farm production supervisor) and III (agribusiness manager) Green Certificates are also available for those who are interested in advancing their career in the agriculture industry.

To participate in the Green Certificate Program, trainees must be at least 15 years of age and enrolled in grade 10, 11 or 12. The training takes approximately one year, allowing trainees to experience all of the seasons on a farming operation.

For more information about the program and admission requirements, students may follow the Green Certificate Program link above or contact their school representative to connect with the Green Certificate regional coordinator.


Related Education

The following schools offer programs or courses that are related to this occupation but are not required to enter the field.

For a broad list of programs and courses that may be related to this occupation try searching using keywords.

Employment & Advancement
Updated Dec 16, 2016

Below-average occupational growth is expected in Alberta for 2016 to 2020. Job openings are a result of employment turnover and newly created positions.

Establishing a dairy operation requires a very large capital investment. Initial costs include land, buildings, quota, equipment and cows. Ongoing operating costs include feed, veterinarian fees, breeding expenses and labour. Programs may be available to help with some of these costs, such as the Alberta Milk's New Entrant Assistance Program.

There are several different jobs on large dairy operations (for example, general farm workers, dairy workers, milkers, calf rearers, yardsmen, dairy herd operators, herdsmen, assistant herdsmen or dairy managers). For those seeking work on dairy farms, visit the Alberta Milk Farm Labour Website and other job banks. With courses, on-the-job training and experience, general farm workers on dairy farms can advance to positions of greater responsibility.

Individuals who have university degrees and dairy farm experience may move into positions in government, inspection agencies, industry organizations or private companies (for example, feed companies).

Dairy producers are part of the larger 2011 National Occupational Classification 0821: Managers in agriculture. In Alberta, 97% of people employed in this classification work in the Agricultural (PDF) industry.

The employment outlook in this occupation will be influenced by a wide variety of factors including:

  • trends and events affecting overall employment (especially in the Agriculture industry)
  • location in Alberta
  • employment turnover (work opportunities generated by people leaving existing positions)
  • occupational growth (work opportunities resulting from the creation of new positions that never existed before)
  • size of the occupation.

Over 37,500 Albertans are employed in the Farmers and farm managers occupational group. This group is expected to have a below-average annual growth of 0.9% from 2016 to 2020. As a result, 338 new positions are forecast to be created each year, in addition to job openings created by employment turnover. Note: As dairy producers form only a part of this larger occupational group, only some of these newly created positions will be for dairy producers.

Employment turnover is expected to increase as members of the baby boom generation retire over the next few years.

Wage & Salary
Updated Dec 16, 2016

Dairy production ensures the dairy producer a regular monthly income. However, total incomes vary from one dairy operation to another depending on the size of the herd, its production capacity and the size of the operation's debt load (loans and major expenses). Dairy farm income often is supplemented by sales of surplus animals, purebred stock and crop products such as grain and forage. 

Dairy producers are part of the larger 2011 National Occupational Classification 0821: Managers in agriculture.

According to the 2015 Alberta Wage and Salary Survey, Albertans in the Managers in agriculture occupational group earned on average from $24.87 to $43.59 an hour. The overall average wage was $33.00 an hour. For more information, see the Managers in agriculture wage profile.

Related High School Subjects
  • English Language Arts
  • Science
    • Biology
    • Chemistry
  • Business, Administration, Finance and IT
    • Management and Marketing
  • Natural Resources
    • Agriculture
    • Environmental Stewardship
Related Post-Secondary Field of Study
  • Agriculture and Related Technologies
Other Sources of Information
Updated Dec 16, 2016

Alberta Agriculture and Forestry website: www.agric.gov.ab.ca

Alberta Milk website: www.albertamilk.com

For more information on career planning, education and jobs, visit the Alberta Learning Information Service (ALIS) website, call the Alberta Career Information Hotline toll-free at 1-800-661-3753 or 780-422-4266 in Edmonton, or visit an Alberta Works Centre near you.

Updated Mar 29, 2015. The information contained in this profile is current as of the dates shown. Salary, employment outlook and educational program information may change without notice. It is advised that you confirm this information before making any career decisions.

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