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Dairy Science - Overview


Dairy science programs teach people the science of dairy production and management. Students learn dairy cattle science and nutrition. They study food science, safety, and milk products.

It's hard to resist a good chocolate milkshake. Or butter pecan ice cream. Or mashed potatoes drowning in real melted butter. And for the foodies out there, a triple-cream Danish blue cheese melted on toasted crostini. Is your mouth watering yet? Let's face it - dairy products such as milk, cream, and cheese are an integral part of the American diet.

As a food source, dairy cows are relatively lucky because their milk is in demand, not their meat. Many cows enjoy good food and a decent lifestyle of grazing and tail-swishing to encourage milk production. Optimally, they can spend their days in open pasture. At the same time, dairy cows require reliable milking schedules. Most commercial dairy farms are large and complex, and nearly all have employees.

To work as a dairy scientist, you need at least a four-year degree. Dairy scientists usually work as managers at dairy farms, monitoring production and supervising employees. To work as a dairy science technician, you usually need a two-year degree, including lab courses and work experience. Dairy science technicians usually assist in the feeding, breeding, and milking of cattle. They operate milking machines and monitor cattle health.

In addition to working on dairy farms, you can usually find work breeding dairy cattle or food processing. With your knowledge and experience of dairy science, you can even become an artisan cheese maker!

In dairy science programs, it's no surprise that you study all aspects of dairy cows and dairy production. You learn how to keep dairy cattle healthy through nutrition and exercise. You learn about bovine biology, breeding, and genetics. You also study the techniques and machinery used to milk cows. In addition, you learn business skills associated with dairy farm operations. This usually includes courses in record-keeping, management, and purchasing.

About 35 schools offer programs specifically in dairy science. However, every state has a land grant college that offers agricultural or animal science programs. Many other colleges and universities also offer degrees or courses in dairy science. Typically they are part of a larger agriculture or animal science department. In addition, several two-year colleges offer certificate and associate degrees in dairy science that can be transferred to a four-year school.

Several schools offer graduate degrees in dairy science. Often these programs focus on the breeding, genetics, and physiology of dairy cows. Master's degrees typically take five or six years of full-time study after high school. Doctoral degree programs typically take about three to five years after the master's degree. Most people with graduate degrees in dairy science become professors or researchers.

Source: Illinois Career Information System (CIS) brought to you by Illinois Department of Employment Security.
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