Dairies milking 500+ cows see largest decline in census

More than 20 percent of the nation’s dairy farms have closed since the last census.

There were more than 39,000 dairy farms in the U.S. selling milk in 2017, down more than 20 percent from the 2012 Census. USDA survey data in 2018 says that number dropped an additional five percent last year with more than 1,800 farms closing.

Herds milking more than 500 cows declined by more than 30 percent and made up nearly nine percent of dairy farms in 2017.  Less than one percent of farms milked more than 5,000 cows which was a new category in the census.

The number of farms selling milk with less than 100 milk cows declined by 28 percent and made up 64 percent of the dairy farm total. 

Farms ranging from 100 to less than 500 milk cows declined by four percent and made up 27 percent of the total. 

The largest percentage of dairy farms, milking less than 100 cows, produced slightly more than 10 percent of the milk supply while those with 500 or more produced nearly 70 percent. 

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