Dairy farming is a class of agriculture, or an animal husbandry enterprise that is meant for the long-term production of milk, butter, cheese and yoghurt.
It is usually from dairy cows. But in recent times, the practice has been extended to goats and sheep, which may either be processed on-site or transported to a dairy factory for processing and retail sales.
Experts say the dairy industry is a constantly evolving business as management practices change with new technology and regulations that move the industry toward increased economic and environmental sustainability.
They point out that the management strategies can loosely be divided into intensive and extensive systems.
Extensive systems, according to them operate based on a low input and low output philosophy, while intensive systems adopt a high input high output philosophy. These philosophies, as well as available technologies, local regulations, and environmental conditions manifest in different management of nutrition, housing, health, reproduction and waste.
A Livestock Manager, Mr Tukur Sani says most modern dairy farms divide the animals into different management units depending on their age, nutritional needs, reproductive status, and milk production status. He says the group of cows that are currently lactating, the milking herd, is often managed most intensively to make sure their diet and environmental conditions are conducive to producing as much high-quality milk as possible.
On some farms, he says the milking herd is further divided into milking strings, which are groups of animals with different nutritional needs.
Sani explains that the business though capital intensive in nature is very profitable as it offers attractive return on investments.
Asked what would be needed to set up a dairy farm, he says that apart from the cows, one would need a milking machine, fertile land where the cows can graze and skilled employees.
For the cows, he says they can either be bought locally or imported, adding that depending on the size, the local ones sell for between N100, 000 and N150, 000 per cow.
He, however, added that foreign cows from Holland, India and Germany are more preferable as their milk production capacity is high compared to locally bred ones.
Explaining how the milk is obtained, Sani says that a cow is milked twice a day.
If properly milked, he says that a cow could produce between 28 and 35 litres of milk per day.
Each cow, he says could produce milk for about 305 days in a year, while the remaining 60 days are observed as their resting period.
He says, “This business if properly managed is very profitable. A cow produces between 28 and 35 litres of milk per day.
“Our milking machine enables us to milk about 250 cows in just four hours and going by this, you can imagine how much we rake in as revenue daily.”
To get the best result from the cows, he says that the issue of hygiene should be taken seriously.
“The cows are milked twice a day and before they are milked, they are first taken to a room for washing so that their body temperature can be cool.
“This enables us to ensure that the milk is obtained under hygienic conditions thus making us get the best from the cows,” Sani adds.
He also says that the type of food given to the cows also enhances their milk production capacity.
To achieve the desired result, he says that one should ensure that their food is made up of maize, cotton and soya beans.
Experts say to engage in this kind of agricultural practice, there is a need to have a business plan that will help to manage the business well without been stuck on the way. The business plan, according to them should contain information such as how to source for capital, how to get knowledge about the business, their feed and other needs, how to sell and market them, the climate conditions good for them and how to prevent diseases in the case of occurrence among others.
A livestock farmer, Alhaji Abdullahi Bala, says experience is essential in this type of business.
He added, “If you don’t have a basic knowledge of dairy farming and cows, it is better you find how to gain one so that you can be able to learn techniques involve in cow management, breeding and weaning, feeding and milking as well as others things which will help you in such business.
‘This is not a business which you can go for on a small scale because it wouldn’t yield much profit unless you want to engage in subsistence agriculture. But if want to go commercial, you need enough capital to see you through, don’t be dismay if you don’t have the money. You need to have tenacity, courage and determination to succeed in this business.
He says while doing business in Nigeria can sometimes be frustrating, an entrepreneur can scale the hurdle if he adheres to certain rules.