"I can tell you that there is nothing more rewarding than the sense of pride and accomplishment that builds from caring for the animals and the land," says Nate Janssen, director of product relations for Dairy Management Inc., an organization dedicated to promoting the dairy industry. Even so, Janssen is quick to admit that dairy farming "can be a challenging, volatile business," as farmers face low milk prices and environmental hurdles.
The challenges are especially hard for those who manage smaller farms that don't have economies of scale working in their favor. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, farms with at least 1,000 cows have costs that are 35 percent lower per hundredweight of milk produced than farms one-tenth the size. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that farming employment (including at dairy farms) will decline by 8 percent between now and 2020. CareerCast.com reports that the average salary for dairy farmers is $33,119 per year.
Though farms are downsizing, job prospects in the dairy industry are positive, including work in dairy processing, distribution, retail and auxiliary farm services, Janssen says. Farmers who leave the field may wind up working with animals, in dairy industry communication or in a different position in the industry.