11 Best Equipment for Small Dairy or Micro Farms | The Ultimate Guide

Owning a small dairy farm requires commitment, time, and money. Most importantly, you have to invest in the right equipment to improve the efficiency of your micro-dairy and maximize your dairy output. 

What are the best pieces of equipment for small dairy farms? When it comes to small dairy farms, various equipment is required, and some of them are:

  • Milk Tank—One of the essential dairy equipment. This insulated tank is made from stainless steel used for storing unprocessed raw milk. 
  • Milk Pump—The pump that drives the dairy milk into the bulk tank, where it is refrigerated. This electric-operated item pumps out the air from the vacuum lines of the milking system to prevent lipolysis and milk frothing, which contribute to poor milk quality. 
  • Milking Machine—A mechanical suction machine used for milking dairy animals, such as cows, goats, sheep, etc.

In this article, we will introduce you to several other best equipment for small dairy farms and impart valuable information about the profitability of this business.

So, get ready to immerse yourself in this ultimate guide for your small dairy farm business!

What Is Considered a Small Dairy Farm?

What Is Considered a Small Dairy Farm

 A small dairy farm or micro-dairy is a small-scale farm that manages dairy animals as few as four. This is specially built for ‘starters’ who hope to scale up their dairy business one day. 

Small dairy farms are often established for any of the two reasons:

  1. As a startup course, directing to the ownership of a larger dairy farm.
  1. A side-venture for individuals interested in dairy farming, but only have a limited time on their end.

Whatever your reason is, your equipment and livestock are your lifeblood.

How Many Acres Is a Small Dairy Farm?

How Many Acres Is a Small Dairy Farm

For dairy operations, each cow should have at least 1.5 to 2.0 acres of area on its own. This gives the animals a comfortable place to move and rest.

Are Small Dairy Farms Profitable?

There’s a high chance that small dairy farms can be profitable with proper changes. For instance, ensuring to deliver high-quality milk and doing some research on potential markets, such as urban cities and potential customers.

You can also sell dung to plant nurseries, farmers, and home gardeners to maximize your income. Most importantly, make sure to take care of your dairy animals to keep them healthy. 

Best Equipment for Small Dairy Farms

Best Equipment for Small Dairy Farms

The equipment and machinery needed usually depend on the mechanization level desired and the operation scale.

But, machinery and equipment like milk cans, milking pails, chaff cutter machines, and other minor tools are often needed irrespective of the size of the dairy farm.

Those farms with over 20 dairy animals, milking machines can be more convenient and economical than hand milking. Furthermore, misters cooling devices and fans installation is a must in animal sheds for protection against heat stress and if you wishes to preserve high-yielding crossbred cows. 

Meanwhile, dairy farms with over 50 milch animals may need an electricity generator set, a milk cooler, and a utility vehicle for farm supplies procurement. Now, let’s move on to the best equipment for small dairy farms. 

Tractor/Front Loader

A tractor is a motor-driven farm essential that has a lot of use. For instance, it drags the feed mixer wagon that weighs, mixes, and distributes the cows and other dairy animals’ feed.

Furthermore, tractors can be furnished with various accessories so that they can be used for other farming activities, such as:

  • Cultivating crops
  • Harvesting 
  • Tilling
  • Plowing

In addition, they can also be attached to hay forks to lift and transfer hay used as fodder for animals. You can also attach a trailer for quicker milk collection and transfer to the processing plant.

This is also one of the methods that dairy farmers are using when feeding their cows. 

How Does the Equipment Work?

A tractor is a powerful machine used for completing various farming tasks. It’s often used to pull different farm tools for plowing, cultivating, fertilizing, planting, and harvesting crops.

It can also be utilized for moving materials or products, such as milk in dairy farming.  

It’s powered by internal-combustion engines operating on kerosene (paraffin), gasoline, diesel fuel, or LPG (liquefied petroleum gas). The power is transferred via a propeller shaft to a gearbox carrying 8 or 10 accelerations and via the differential gear to the two big rear-drive wheels.

Pros

  • Ease of operation and transmission
  • Low operating cost

Cons

  • Can be expensive
  • Maintenance required

Milk Pumps

Irrespective of the size of your dairy farm, planning on transferring milk from station A to B will require pumps to transfer the milk. The milk pump pushes the milk from the initial refrigerated storage tank to the processing tank.

After the milk is processed from the processing tank, then transferred to the cooling storage tank. These pumps vary in power from high to low and in size with various features, designs, and capacities.

How Does the Equipment Work?

This equipment works based on a rotating impeller, converting kinetic energy into pressure needed to pump the milk. The milk then enters the pump at the impeller rotation’s center and moves to the impeller periphery—a special impeller used to cool down the milk pumps while in use.

Pros 

  • Efficient

Cons

  • Sensitive to vibration
  • Expensive repair

Packaging System

If you want your own packaging for your dairy products, you’ll need a packaging system. A packaging system comprises a capping mechanism and a liquid dispenser.

The packaging system fills the milk bottles and seals them. These doesn’t come cheap, but some micro-dairy manufacturers offer smaller-scale machines.

When purchasing a packaging machine, don’t fail to anticipate the container’s price. It’s also best to find a local supplier for your containers since bulky order shipment comes at a much higher cost.

Pros

  • Improves product safety
  • Convenient
  • Protect product from contamination and tampering

Cons

  • It can be expensive and environmentally damaging

Milk Tank

Even if your dairy farm is small, having a milk tank is required for any dairy business. To be exact, you will need to have two types of milk tanks—the storage tanks and processing tanks. 

These tanks are used to store milk and keep them fresh for a long time. Hence, they are essential pieces of milk processing equipment if you like to deliver fresh, safe, and high-quality dairy products.

As their names imply, one is used for storing milk, while the other is used for processing. One example of a processing tank is the mixing tank.

It’s a stainless steel tank with an insulating jacket, keeping the right temperature while the ingredients are blended using an agitator within the tank.

The 30-galloon tank costs around $3,000, whereas the 100-gallon tank is around $4,000.

Meanwhile, the storage tank or the milk cooling tank is a large storage tank that keeps the milk while it cools. Once cooled, the tank preserves the milk at the right temperature until a hauler arrives to pick it up. 

A 14-gallon cooling tank costs approximately $2,000, whereas a 220-gallon cooling tank is about $7,300.

How Does the Equipment Work?

The milk tank is generally furnished with a mixer to rev the cooling procedure and homogenize the milk. During the milking process, the milk that enters the tank is cooled through the pool circulating water close to the milk chamber inner walls and the melting ice. 

After the ice has dissolved thoroughly, the cooling system continues to aid the ice bank and resume the ice building.

Pros

  • Integrated system
  • Ensure safety
  • Improve working efficiencies

Cons

  • Can be expensive
  • Excessive washing required

Temperature Chart Recorder

This equipment is an electric monitor, which tracks and documents the milk and wash water temperature using its sensors. You can set the chart recorder to sound the alarm at exact temperature thresholds, notifying you of unhealthy temperature shifts and improper washing procedures.

It is essential to have a quality temperature chart recorder to ensure your milk is cooled and stored at the right temperature to get the best quality and guarantee safe consumption. This machine comes with a 48-hour and 7-day time recorder. 

A 48-hour temperature chart recorder can be purchased for around $1,000, while the 7-day temperature chart recorder is approximately $1,500. Chart paper refill also costs about $50 to $180.

How Does the Equipment Work?

A chart recorder is a device used to document different procedures and electrical signals. Most standard chart recorders record data on paper and work by passing under a pen.

The pen changes its direction based on the signal, resulting in a chart of data or graph.

Pros

  • Measures temperature to ensure balance
  • Real-time data processing
  • Fast response
  • Simple

Cons

  • Continuous replacement of pens/charts
  • Requires space for paper charts storage
  • Manual retrieval required
  • Least stable

Chaff/Fodder Cutter

A chaff cutter/fodder cutter is a device used to cut straw and hay into tiny pieces. You can use this equipment by putting the hay or straw into the cutter, and its blades will start cutting the hay or straw into small pieces. 

This equipment is available in small compact units or large industrial units, ranging from $300 to $500 for small compact units and $3,000 or more for large commercial units. 

How Does the Equipment Work?

To use the chaff cutter, put the hay or straw into the cutter, and it will be cut into small pieces by the cutter’s blade. The chaff is then channeled away from the device via a chute or blown away from the machine, parallel to how a wood chipper expels wood chips.

Pros 

  • Energy-efficient
  • Save more time and human resources
  • Wear-resistant
  • Multi-purpose

Cons

  • It can be dangerous and cause potential injuries if safety procedures aren’t followed thoroughly.

Cream Separator

The cream separator machine is used for producing skim and low-fat milk and cream. As this machine divides fat from milk, you gain two products simultaneously—milk and cream with a lower fat percentage. 

Depending on the cream separator’s operating time, you can get cream and milk with various fat percentages.

Furthermore, you can either get a hand crank separator that will require you to do everything manually or get an electric cream separator that uses centrifugal force to separate the cream and milk.

 A manual cream separator can be purchased for around $300, while the electric one costs approximately $350 for the small size. Not much of a difference!

Meanwhile, a larger electric cream separator will cost you around $700 to $1,000. A cream separator that costs below $1,000 can process around thirty-four gallons per hour.

How Does the Equipment Work?

The cream separator’s centrifugal force boosts the separation of the milk. The fat globules, which are milk’s lighter part, proceed to the drum center, while the heavier skim milk flows to the outer sides.

Pros

  • Deliver better creams
  • Purifies milk as needed
  • Lessen workload
  • Enhance aeration
  • Made from food-grade aluminum

Cons

  • Some cream separators need to be assembled upon arrival 

Homogenizer

A homogenizer is a piece of equipment used to make an even consistency, break down milk’s fat molecules, and stop the fat molecules from splitting. 

This equipment is particularly used in homogenization, which is often mistaken with pasteurization. However, these two are different processes in which homogenization comes after pasteurization. 

Pasteurization causes dairy products to be safer, homogenization drives them to have a better consistency and taste.

A small dairy homogenizer can be purchased for around $600 to $3,000, while a full commercial unit is approximately $20,000!

How Does the Equipment Work?

The homogenization procedure involves lowering the size of the fat globules into little pieces and are spread evenly throughout the milk. This is typically achieved by pumping the milk via the small openings under high pressure.

Pros

  • Increase milk’s shelf life
  • Improves milk’s taste and color

Cons

  • It changes the size of the fat globules in milk but doesn’t necessarily influence its nutritional quality.

Pasteurizer

Pasteurizer is a machine used to heat dairy products to kill destructive organisms, such as bacteria, protozoa, viruses, molds, etc. This organism removal process is called pasteurization.

A milk pasteurization unit heats the milk and maintains it at a set temperature for a particular time, swirling it continually and cooling it down, making it ready for further processing or storing.

Dairy products that aren’t pasteurized can carry bacteria, such as Campylobacter, E. coli, Salmonella, and Listeria. So, having a pasteurizer for your small dairy farm is crucial to ensure high-quality and safe dairy products.

This equipment can cost around $500 to $5,000, depending on whether its singular or multi-functional. 

How Does the Equipment Work?

A standard pasteurizer is entirely automatic. You put milk in one end, and it flows between plates for a set period or a set of heating pipes, ideally long enough to kill off most of the harmful bacteria. 

After that, it then flows between cooling pipes set before appearing from an opening pipe into the bottles.

Pros

  • Eliminates harmful bacteria from dairy products
  • Prevents various diseases such as brucellosis, diphtheria, and tuberculosis

Cons

  • Lessens milk nutrients

Milking Machine

A milking machine is a piece of mechanical equipment used to milk cows. You may not need this if you planned on milking your cow by hand.

However, having a milking machine at your disposal makes the production speed up and saves you a lot of time. This is also safer than hand milking as it doesn’t harm the cows as the teats are in touch with rubber liners, wherein standard process, fingernails may wound the cattle’s teats. 

Moreover, this also helps relieve stress during the lactation process, creating a good milking routine.

How Does the Equipment Work?

Milking machines operate by exposing the animal’s teat to a vacuum and pulling the milk generated by this process. Milking machines are developed accordingly to apply a regular vacuum to the very end of the animal’s teat and draw milk out, delivering it to the separate milk container.

Pros

  • Time-efficient
  • Fast production
  • High-quality milk
  • Lessen workforce
  • Reduce labor cost

Cons

  • Required regular power supply.
  • A strict cleaning process is a must to avoid contamination.

Mud Pumps

In the dairy sector, wastewater management is undisputed work and consumes a lot of time and labor. But, with the help of mud pumps, cleaning and removing dung in your dairy farm can be an easy and quick process.

How Does the Equipment Work?

This works by turning on the pumps. Once it’s turned on, the motor begins to turn the impeller, creating the force that drives water into the impeller and runs into the discharge chute.

Pros

  • Ease of access
  • Easy to use
  • Energy-efficient

Cons

  • Requires electricity
  • Restricted suction capacity

Summary

When buying these pieces of machinery for your small dairy farm, don’t pick products based on the brand name or cost solely. Spend time researching a particular equipment model you’re interested in and scrutinize if it’s something that you need. 

List of Sources

Review: Milking Machine Settings, Teat condition and Milking Efficiency in Dairy Cows

Profits, Costs, and the Changing Structure of Dairy Farming

Nutrition and Feeding of Dairy Cattle

Dairy Sense: Keeping the Dairy Right Sized

Leave a Comment