Milk splash.
February 20, 2020

Licensed U.S. Dairy Farms Decline 8.8% in 2019

 |  By: Jim Dickrell

The United States Department of Agriculture released its average annual count of licensed dairy farms in the United States today, showing a decline of 3,281 farms.

According to the listing, the U.S. had an average of 34,187 dairy farms in 2019, down from 37,468, or 8.8%.

Keep in mind that these are annual averages. For example, the average number of dairy farms listed by USDA for Wisconsin is 7,720 in 2019. Wisconsin actually reached that level in about June of last year. By January, 2020, there were just 7,292 farms licensed to sell milk in Wisconsin, according to USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service and another 34 left the business by February 1.

Nevertheless, the USDA annual average number of farms is instructive. For example, several states declined more than 10% in dairy farm number in 2019: West Virginia, down 23%; Arkansas, Tennessee and South Carolina, down 20%; North Dakota, 19%; North Carolina, down 17%; Michigan, down 12.5%; Georgia, down 12.5%, Ohio, down 12%; Kentucky, Utah and Virginia, down 11%. Note: Hawaii has one remaining dairy farm, down from two last year. And Alaska has one remaining farm, unchanged from last year.

No states reported an increase in dairy farm numbers. But seven states reported no losses. Those included Alaska, Colorado, Nevada, New Hampshire, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Wyoming.

Note that more than half of the losses came from four states: Wisconsin, down 780; Pennsylvania, down 470; New York, down 310, and Minnesota, down 250. Totaled, they equal a loss of 1,810 farms, or 55% of those who exited the dairy business in 2019.

Since cow numbers in the United States now total 9,348,000, the average herd size in the country moves to 273 cows per farm, up from 251 cows in 2018. That’s a jump of 8.9%.

You can see the entire listing here in the January milk production report. Scroll to page 18.