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65% of the Nation’s Dairy Herd Lives On 1,000-Plus-Cow Operations

Earlier this month, the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service released the latest Census of Agriculture data for 2022. When compared to the last census, which was conducted in 2017, the new data provides insights in on the direction the dairy industry is taking. And, without much surprise, herd consolidation was a major theme.

According to Lucas Fuess, Senior Dairy Analyst at Rabobank, there were 24,082 dairy operations with off-farm milk sales in 2022, down from the 39,303 dairy farms in 2017. In contrast, however, milk production increased by 5%, despite cow numbers remaining nearly identical at 9.4 million cows.

“Rabobank estimates that less than 25% of the U.S. milk supply (in 2022) was produced on farms with less than 500 head, but these operations accounted for more than 80% of dairy operations, at 20,631, offsetting their lower output with larger political clout,” Fuess says.

February 28, 2024


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