How does the modern dairy industry work?

There are a lot of things that have changed in the dairy industry today. For instance, during the 1800s, there were several issues found in milk. Poor sanitation and our poor understanding of microorganisms have caused several milk-borne diseases to become rampant. In 1862, French scientist Louis Pasteur showed a method that could eliminate the risk. Later known as pasteurisation, it has changed the way the industry operates.

Also, in 1890, Henry Coit together with other physicians established The Medical Milk Commission that certified the overall safety of consumer milk. By the time when industrial agriculture evolved, the operations of the dairy industry also changed significantly as huge operations became dominant.

Modern day practices in today’s dairy industry

From the 1800s to today, things have changed significantly for the dairy industry. There are modern-day practices that can be considered a huge leap from the old dairy practices.

How does the modern dairy industry work?
Photo: Matthias Zomer, Pexels.

Selective breeding

Though considered to be a highly controversial topic, there are dairies that have practiced selective breeding among cows in order to get the shape of the leg that they need. In some cases, it also led to better production of milk.

Artificial insemination

Another practice in today’s dairy industry is artificial insemination. It is today’s most common method of reproductive management in different parts of the world. In 1996, it was reported in the US that 45% of dairy operations have already used artificial insemination over having a breeding bull.

This has improved milk production and has resulted in the desired cattle by most farms. It also led to genetically elite sires and an increased conception rate. Conception rate among dairies that have practiced artificial insemination is at around more or less 40%.

High standards for milk

Unlike the old times when people get sick when they drink milk, the industry now has a high standard when it comes to the quality of milk that they allow in the market.

Milk quality is synonymous with the somatic cell count (SCC) as well as bacterial count coming from the pre-pasteurised bulk tank milk. Different countries have set different allowable maximum somatic cell counts. In the US, the upper limit for SCC is at 750,000 cells per 1ML whereas it is 500,000 cells/ML for Canada.

Rapid advancement in nutrition

Nutrition has also advanced in today’s dairy processes. For instance, when it comes to lactating cows, they are fed with component-based ration or total mixed ration. The content of the ration is based on research as well as laboratory testing. For dairy nutritionists, a good combination of hay, grains, and protein sources in cows are important.

When it comes to the diet of most cows, it usually depends on the surplus items in the area. For Florida, for instance, a good amount of citrus pulp and brewer’s mash has been incorporated in cow feed mainly because of the orange production in the state. It becomes a nutritious diet for cows instead of ending up as landfill.

Water is also another important component of a cow’s diet. Farmers today ensure that their cows get access to clean water all the time given the fact that these animals can consume approximately around 95 to 190 litres of water daily.

How does the modern dairy industry work?
Photo: Free-Photos, Pixabay.

Free range vs. small spaces

Unfortunately, there are a good number of farms that have confined their animals in small spaces. On the other hand, there are those farms that have reverted towards free-range practices wherein cows are free to roam and eat grass.

Part of the reason why free-range cows are becoming popular is the fact that cows that roam freely require less medical attention than cows found in “animal factories”. Those cows that are placed in small spaces usually take antibiotics not only to grow faster but to compensate for their living conditions.


Farms now pay close attention to the overall health of their cows. Cows in today’s dairy industry are given utmost veterinary care in order to ensure that they are free from any illness. It is also important to monitor their health in order to ensure that the illness isn’t going to spread into the entire herd. Vaccination and proper monitoring are just some of the most important practices in today’s modern dairy industry.

For instance, it is important that the sick cow is going to show no trace of antibiotics in her milk. Milk with traces of antibiotics is not allowed to be sold in the market today.

There are basically a lot of new innovations and technologies in today’s dairy industry. The industry now has a better understanding of exactly how to meet the demands of their consumers. Even though only 2% of the entire population works in dairy farms, they are still able to cater to the world’s demand for dairy-related products. Thanks to modern day practices from the industry, consumers are also safer when they consume their dairy products.

Patrice Cognard
Patrice Cognard
With 5 master's degrees, Patrice is a highly regarded Designer, Developer & Digital Marketer whose process-driven approach to developing rich customer experiences helps our clients get into market faster and more effectively. For 25 years, he has applied his training in the areas of corporate identity, branding, and design for such notable clients in a variety of Industries.
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