Dairy Inspector Career Profile
Dairy inspectors ensure that dairy farms comply with government standards related to facility sanitation and herd health.
Dairy inspectors conduct inspections to ensure that dairy farms adhere to various regulatory and food safety requirements. Inspectors are usually assigned to a specific territory, conducting unannounced inspections of each farm every six months (the federal Pasteurized Milk Ordinance requires that Grade A dairy farms be inspected twice yearly).
Dairy inspectors review the entire facility during the course of their visit. They check the cleanliness of the milking parlor equipment, examine the health of the dairy herd, and collect milk and water samples for evaluation. They also issue licenses to milk producers, document, and issue fines for any violations, and give recommendations to facility managers to improve biosecurity and reduce the incidence of disease. At the conclusion of the inspection, the dairy inspector is responsible for compiling a comprehensive report that details the conditions at the facility.
Dairy inspectors must travel extensively throughout their designated territory to investigate many dairy facilities. The nature of an investigational animal career often requires that the inspector is available to work some evening, weekend, and holiday hours as necessary.
Dairy inspectors can work for government agencies in the United States and abroad. Both full and part-time positions may be available. Dairy inspectors may also find regulatory employment in a closely related career path such as animal health inspector.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the majority of agricultural inspector positions are with the federal government (24 percent) and state government (22 percent) agencies. The states offering the highest number of positions in this field are California (1,600 jobs), Texas (890 jobs), and Florida (660 jobs).
Outside of regulatory roles, inspectors can also transition into a variety of dairy-related career paths such as dairy farm owner or manager, nutritionist, agricultural extension agent, or bovine veterinarian.
Education & Training
Educational requirements for dairy inspectors may vary from one state to the next, but a B.S. degree in an animal related field is generally preferred. Dairy science is a popular major for those planning to pursue this career path.
Dairy science majors must complete coursework in areas such as anatomy and physiology, genetics, reproduction, nutrition, behavior, dairy production, herd management, physiology of lactation, livestock evaluation, agricultural marketing, and business management. Many programs include a significant amount of hands-on experience and require completion of bovine internships.
Aspiring inspectors should also have some degree of hands-on experience with dairy herd management, milking equipment, manufacturing procedures, and quality control measures. They must also become familiar with a variety of local, state, and federal regulations related to their inspection duties.
Dairy inspector certification requirements vary by state. California, for example, requires a written and oral exam for a candidate to become a Registered Dairy Inspector. After passing the exam, the inspector can be licensed to perform regulatory duties in their state.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not collect salary data for the category of dairy inspectors but does include them in the more general category of agricultural inspectors. Agricultural inspectors reported a median wage of $42,680 per year ($20.52 per hour) in the most recent BLS salary survey conducted in May of 2013. The lowest 10 percent of agricultural inspectors earned less than $25,540 per year ($12.28 per hour) and the highest 10 percent of agricultural inspectors earned more than $63,150 per year ($39.36 per hour).
A California dairy inspector job posting from mid-2014 (in Sonoma) quoted an annual salary of $62,572 to $76,055 ($29.98 to $36.44 hourly). This number is slightly higher than the expected average salary range for the position, possibly due to the higher cost of living in that particular area.
The need for dairy inspectors should remain fairly steady over the next decade. Qualified candidates with a combination of education and hands-on experience will continue to enjoy the best prospects in the field.