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A herdsperson works on a dairy farm or farms with herds of cows. Dairy farms can have herds of varying sizes - anything from 20 to 1000 cows. Some smaller farms may have even fewer than this, and so the size of the herds-team can vary accordingly. They usually work alongside a herd manager or farm manager to help with the day-to-day running of the herd.
The main duty of a herdsperson is to monitor the general welfare of the cattle and ensure that they are correctly managed according to purpose (meat, dairy or breeding). Dairy farms will have a herd of cows that the herdsperson will take care of, where cows bred for milking will be brought at the start their milk production after they give birth to their first calf. These cows will then produce a calf every year, allowing their milk production to continue. A herdsperson will need to monitor dairy cows during lactation, sometimes milking them and helping to plan to breeding cycles with the manager.
A herdsperson will end up knowing each individual cow and will become familiar with temperaments and the amounts of milk to expect from each. A herdsperson will manage their herd’s feeding, healthcare, birthing plans and milking. They might also work with their herd manager or head herdsperson to decide on new feeds or new methods of care. It is crucial that dairy cows get the best level of care possible, as they can be very expensive and the slightest change to a cows care or diet can drastically alter milk production levels, affecting the enterprise of the farm.
A herdsperson may work as a relief herdsperson, who comes in to help the farm on a temporary basis with milking the cows and general assistance.