Dairy Farming in South Africa

Updated on 30 May 2023

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Dairy Farming in South Africa

Dairy farming continues to be a lucrative opportunity for entrepreneurs in South Africa. According to South Africa Online, dairy farming is one of the largest agricultural industries in the country.

There’s a lot to consider before starting a dairy farm in South Africa, including having an understanding of the basic principles of farming and the business skills needed to run a sustainable enterprise.

What is dairy farming

Dairy farming involves the “breeding, raising, and utilisation of dairy animals, primarily cows, for the production of milk and the various dairy products processed from it”. This includes milk and products such as butter, cheese and yoghurt.

Dairy industry overview

South Africa has a large dairy industry. There are currently about 1200 dairy farms and 1.2 million dairy cows in South Africa, and industry employs 26,000 people. This is according to statistics provided to the Daily Churn by Milk SA, a non-profit promoting South African dairy.

South Africa continues to see an increase in demand for dairy products, similar to other countries across the globe. This means there is great growth potential, profitability and opportunities present for aspiring entrepreneurs.

The industry is, however, not without its challenges. The dairy sector can be challenging for emerging farmers as it does need a large scale production to start being profitable. Other obstacles identified by Milk SA are the “high intensity of milk production and risk factors such as milk quality and safety” and “requirement for specialised knowledge”. Both factors keeps aspiring farmers out of the industry.

The basics of starting a dairy farm in South Africa

To succeed in this industry, it’s important that aspirant farmers know the fundamental steps involved in starting a dairy farm in South Africa. These basics include land selection, breed selection, facilities, regulations, and financial considerations.

Land selection

A successful dairy farm requires adequate farmland, located in an agricultural area.

Some of the important considerations when choosing land for a dairy farm in South Africa, according to Milk SA are: a dependable source of electricity available, distance to market. Additional requirements are good road infrastructure, and availability of electricity and good water supply, as well as good pasture.

Read: How to Start a Farming Business in South Africa

Breed selection

The success of a dairy enterprise is dependent on choosing the right breed of cow. According to Food for Mzansi, the cow you select determines the amount of milk produced by the herd, which in turn has an impact on your profit. There are currently six cattle breeds that are considered ideal for a dairy operation. The most popular breed, however is the Holstein-Freisland. Beyond milk production capabilities, other factors farmers must consider are adaptability to local climates, and disease resistance.


You will also need the right equipment to get started. Dairy farming requires substantial equipment and infrastructure to run a dairy farm effectively. Some of the facilities that a new farm will need include milk tanks, milk palours and sheds, feeding systems and cooling equipment

Despite the challenges present, dairy farming remains a lucrative opportunity if you can cover the rather extensive capital and land requirements. With the proper planning and adequate infrastructure, there is plenty of opportunity for small-scale farmers to start and grow a dairy business in South Africa.

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