Dr Jolly Kabirizi says it is important to remember that a dairy farm is a business.
Development of a detailed business plan and a SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) of your plan and the resources you have available will be critical to the success of your business. How many cows will you milk? Where will you sell your milk?
Will you hire employees? How much money do you need to live on after the dairy bills are all paid? Your business plan should include a cash flow plan that will help you set reasonable expectations for your expenses and cost of production.
Consult the experts
Even if you grew up on a dairy farm and learned how to feed and milk cows from your parents and grandparents, it is important to consult experts in the dairy industry as you develop your business plan and design your management system. Other dairy producers are great resources.
Attend field days on dairy farms in your area and other parts of the country. When visiting other farms find out what has worked well on those farms and what has not worked, but keep in mind that just because something worked on one farm does not mean it will work for you on your farm. In addition to farmers, talk to veterinarians, nutritionists, agronomists, bankers, extension educators, and others that can provide different perspectives on management of your dairy.
Create a cropping and feeding programme
Whether you are going to feed a TMR (total mixed ration), graze your cattle, or some combination of both; dairy cattle require a certain set of nutrients to support themselves, produce milk, and support a calf. Work with a nutritionist to develop rations for your lactating cows and dry cows and heifers if these animals are to be raised on the farm.
Producing all your own feed takes land and time, not to mention equipment for planting and harvesting the crops. Hiring labour to plant and harvest forages, or making arrangements with government or private institutions to hire equipment can reduce your capital investment as you get started with your dairy business and are building capital.
More practical tips to zero grazing farmers include how to use cattle waste to generate more value for the farm.