|My son, Jack, with one of our cows|
The number of milk cow operations continues to decline. In 2009, there were 65,000 dairy farms compared to 97,460 farms in 2001. That’s a decline of 33% in eight years. Despite this large decrease in farms, milk production increased 15% and cow numbers increased 1%.
The number of farms with 500 or more cows increased 20% to 3,350. The farms with 2,000 or more cows rose 128% to 740 farms. Farms with 500 or less cows declined 35% to 61,650.
Farms with 500 or more cows produced 60% of all milk in 2009, up from 39% in 2001. Farms with less than 500 cows accounted for 40% of milk production in 2009, down from 61% in 2001.
The ten largest milk producing states accounted for almost 74% of total milk production in the U.S. in 2009. These states are (in order of milk production); California, Wisconsin, New York, Idaho, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Texas, Michigan, New Mexico and Washington.
I think one of the main reasons for this decline in farms comes from the next statistic. Over the last decade the U.S. average milk price has fluctuated between $12.18 to $19.21 per cwt (100 pounds of milk). That’s a huge change from one year to the next. The largest expense on a dairy farm is feed. On our farm, feed accounts for approximately 50% of our monthly expenses. Common ingredients in a cow’s diet are corn, soybeans and hay. The price of these commodities has skyrocketed over the last five years. The price of corn increased 110% from 2005 to 2007. The price of alfalfa hay increased 59% and soybean meal more than doubled from 2005 to 2008.
This drastic increase in feed costs and volatility in milk price has made it difficult for dairy farms to remain in business. The majority of dairy farms in the U.S. have not made a profit in last 24 months. Dairy producers are tired of the unstable milk prices and are taking steps to do something about it. There’s a group of farmers across the nation organizing “National Dairy Producers Organization” with the immediate goal of impacting the price of milk paid to dairy producers through a series of actions including restructuring the national milk pricing formula.
I hope dairy producers across the nation will join the National Dairy Producers Organization and consumers will support the efforts of this group to ensure the continued supply of quality U.S. dairy products we all enjoy.