Make Money as a Dairy Production Tester

Read about the unusual — but intriguing — life of a professional milk tester, who helps dairy farmers keep accurate milk production records.

| November/December 1976

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    Author Bob Richardson collects a milk sample that will later be tested for butterfat content.
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    Bob records the weight of a cow's milk on a barnsheet.
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    Richardson, a former schoolteacher, has learned a lot about farming from Lowell Heim and the other dairymen with whom he works.

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Three years ago, Robert Richardson gave up his career as a teacher, moved to the country... and stepped right into a unique $15- to $35-per-day (plus meals) job that few back-to-the-landers—it seems—have heard of. Here, Bob tells us all about his novel—and profitable—line of work.

If you already live in the country and need a good, steady source of extra income—or if you've made up your mind to move to a rural area but you don't know how you'll earn a living once you get there—I know at least one line of employment that you should check out. It'll let you [1] meet people on equal terms, [2] have the sunniest hours of the day off, and [3] learn a lot about dairy animals in a short time.

Why not, in other words, think about becoming a milk tester—or "field(wo)man"—for the Dairy Herd Improvement Association?

The DHIA fieldman helps dairy farmers keep accurate milk production records on each of the animals (usually cows, but sometimes goats) in their herds. More specifically, this is how you'll spend your time if you do land a job as a fieldman:

In the late afternoon, you'll drive out to a farm and—unless your host prefers to eat after milking, which is sometimes the case—sit down with the dairy farmer's family and eat supper. Once this formality has been satisfactorily taken care of, you'll accompany the dairyman, his wife, and their children (if they are to help) out to the barn for the evening milking.

Then, as each cow is milked, you'll weigh her output and record the weight beside the animal's name or number on the "barnsheet" you've brought along for this purpose. You'll also collect and tag a small sample of each cow's milk for a butterfat analysis that will be conducted later.


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