New dairy farmers often face high start-up costs for land, equipment and facilities. Volatile milk prices, long hours and hard work reduce the appeal of a career in dairy farming. To better understand the start-up strategies used by beginning dairy farmers, a research team surveyed 321 beginning dairy farmers in 1996. They also conducted in depth interviews with 30 beginning farmers from a wide range of backgrounds. From this research, a picture emerged showing a wide range of possibilities for getting established in dairying. Despite the differences, the most important characteristic of the successful beginner was the ability to negotiate a good fit between their resources, skills, and farm and family goals.
Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems
University of Wisconsin-Madison