Dairy Herd Size Increases while the Number of Farms Decreases

Each year, Progressive Dairyman magazine does a great job summarizing annual dairy statistics. It’s interesting to see how the industry changes each year. A trend that continued in 2011 was a decrease in the number of dairy farms with increases in herd size, total milk production and milk production per cow.

Dairy Herds
In 2011, there were 9.2 million cows living on 51,481 dairy farms in the U.S. That is 22,619 fewer herds than there were in 2002. The average herd size is 179 milk cows. The majority of the dairy farmers exiting the industry milk 99 or fewer cows. The total number of dairy farms decreased 3.1% from 2010 to 2011.  

Milk Production
Milk production increased 1.8% last year. The average U.S. cow produced 21,345 lbs (2,482 gallons) of milk in 2011. The 16,700 dairy farms with a herd size of 100 or more milk cows produced 86.4% of the U.S. milk. The 34,781 dairies milking 99 or fewer cows produced 13.6% of the total U.S. milk.

Dairy Exports
In 2011, 13.3% of U.S. dairy products were exported, the highest percentage ever. The top five export markets were; 1) Mexico, 2) Canada, 3) China, 4) Philippines and 5) Japan. Of the dairy products exported, 68% were; 1) Nonfat Dry Milk/Skim Milk Powder, 2) cheese, and 3) whey products.

Top Milk Producing States
The top 11 milk producing states in the nation are; (milk production listed in millions of pounds)
  1. California – 41,462
  2. Wisconsin – 26,177
  3. Idaho – 13,256
  4. New York – 12,826
  5. Pennsylvania – 10,604
  6. Texas – 9,582
  7. Minnesota – 8,890
  8. Michigan – 8,478
  9. New Mexico – 8,177
  10. Washington – 6,169
  11. Ohio – 5,142
Total 2011 U.S. milk production was 196,245 million pounds.

In summary, there are fewer dairy farmers in the U.S. today. The herd size is increasing as small profit margins put pressure on the pocket books of dairy farmers. Many choose to grow their herd or exit the industry. Dairymen are more efficient each year which is evident by the increase in milk production per cow. For the full report, check out 2011 U.S. Dairy Stats