Dairy Cows - Getting Started

Milk cows are the income generator for dairy farms. Proper nutrition and herd management, and many other factors are required for success.
Dairy Cows - Getting Started - Articles


Dairy is the largest agricultural industry in Pennsylvania as determined by value of sales and ranks fifth in the U.S. with sales nearing $2 billion. There are 530,000 dairy cows in the state on 6,720 farms, with average dairy farm herd size at 72 cows. Milk production per cow averages just over 20,000 pounds.

Whether you have plans to produce fluid milk for sale to a cooperative or to process and direct market your own fluid milk and/or dairy products, producing high quality milk from healthy cows is essential.

In addition to the information you find here, eXtension provides a variety of articles and resources related to dairy business and production.


Proper nutrition at all stages of life is critical for maintaining the health and productivity of dairy cattle. Penn State Extension provides extensive nutrition and feeding information in the following areas:

  • Diet formulation and evaluation
  • Rumen function
  • Dry cow nutrition
  • Troubleshooting guides
  • Ration ingredients
  • Nutrition and health
  • Body condition scoring
  • Water and water quality
Forages, a primary component of the diet is also covered.

Herd Management

Caring for the health and well-being of dairy cattle is covered. Topic areas covered include

  • Reproduction and genetics
  • Hoof health
  • Milk quality
  • Livestock transportation
  • Evaluating and conditioning cattle for market
  • Cattle Euthanasia

Business Management

Penn State Extension covers a wide range of topics for the dairy producer. Information is provided for

  • Farm bill
  • Financial tools
  • Mobile apps
  • Feed prices

Milk Production Statistics: Information from the United States Department of Agriculture's National Agricultural Statistics Service covering cow numbers and production.

Human Resource and Team Management

The employees on a dairy are critical to a successful operation. They need to be knowledgeable in their areas of work, motivated, and able to work and contribute in a team environment. For larger dairies, managers may find themselves working with employees more than animals. This requires an additional set of skills. Development of human resource and team management skills become essential.

Nutrient and Feed Management

Growing emphasis and concern regarding soil and water quality require dairy producers to effectively manage feed for nitrogen and phosphorus in resulting manure. Penn State Extension has a number of resources to assist in understanding the issues and in the development of a certified feed management plan.