What Does a Dairy Inspector Do?

Learn About the Salary, Required Skills, & More

Farmer and vet inspecting feed trough while dairy cows look on
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Dairy inspectors ensure that dairy farms comply with government standards related to facility sanitation and herd health. This job falls under the more general category of agricultural inspector.

Dairy Inspector Duties & Responsibilities

The job generally requires the ability to perform the following duties:

  • Inspect dairy farms to ensure that they adhere to various regulatory and food safety requirements
  • Collect samples and take them to the lab for testing
  • Issue licenses to milk producers
  • Document violations and issue fines
  • Give recommendations to facility managers to improve biosecurity and reduce the incidence of disease
  • Compile comprehensive reports that detail the conditions at dairy facilities

Inspectors are usually assigned to a specific territory and conduct 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.

Dairy Inspector Salary

The U.S. 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. The latest salary data was collected for May 2018:

  • Median Annual Salary: $44,140 ($21.22 per hour)
  • Top 10% Annual Salary: $67,400 ($32.40 per hour)
  • Bottom 10% Annual Salary: $27,930 ($13.43 per hour)

Education, Training, & Certification

Educational requirements for dairy inspectors may vary from one state to the next, but a bachelor of science degree in an animal-related field is generally preferred. Dairy science is a popular major for those planning to pursue this career path.

  • Education: 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
  • Experience: 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. 
  • Certification: 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.

Dairy Inspector Skills & Competencies

To be successful in this role, you’ll generally need the following skills and qualities:

  • Interpersonal skills: Inspections require positive interactions with owners and staff at dairy farms.
  • Communication skills: Dairy inspectors must be able to discuss any issues that arise during their inspections with the owners of the dairy farms their inspecting and be able to write about them effectively in reports.
  • Attention to detail: Inspectors must be able to notice even the smallest violations of rules and regulations during their inspections.

Job Outlook

The BLS projects that employment in the general field of agriculture inspection will grow about 5 percent through 2026, which is slower than the overall employment growth of 7 percent for all occupations in the country.

Qualified candidates with a combination of education and hands-on experience will continue to enjoy the best prospects in the field.

Work Environment

Work as a dairy inspector usually requires extensive travel. Candidates must be willing to travel throughout their designated territory to investigate many dairy facilities. They also must be comfortable with being around cows and other farm animals.

Work Schedule

Dairy inspectors can work full-time or part-time hours. The nature of an investigational animal career often requires that the inspector is available to work some evening, weekend, and holiday hours as necessary.

Comparing Similar Jobs

Dairy inspectors may also find regulatory employment in a closely related career path such as animal health inspector. 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.

How to Get the Job

Get Certified

Visit your state's department of agriculture website to get information about the specific certification requirements for that state.

Apply

Search for open jobs on the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service website or job listing aggregators such as Indeed.