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U.S. Dairy Herd Hits 27-year High

Maureen Hanson

August 13, 2021

Dairy cow numbers in the United States continue to climb, with the national dairy herd currently comprised of about 9.505 million milk cows.

According to USDA data, that’s the highest number since 1994, when the U.S. dairy herd population was tallied at 9.507 head. It dropped to 9.481 head in 1995, and was recorded as low as 9.050 million head in 2005.

Milk cow numbers have increased every month since July 2020. They climbed 5,000 head from April to May alone, and in the first half of 2021, the nation’s herd has grown by 144,000 head. For comparison’s sake, that’s roughly the size of the current milk-cow population of South Dakota.

USDA predicts the upward trend in milk-cow numbers will continue into next year, with a projected 2022 national herd size of 9.515 million head.

Meanwhile, the trend of fewer and larger dairy herds continues at a rapid clip. The total number of U.S. dairy farms has dropped by more than half since 2003. That year, there were 70,375 farms in the United States producing milk commercially. By the end of 2020, there were just 31,657.

Using that data, the corresponding average individual herd size nationwide changed from 129 cows per farm in 2003, to about 300 cows per farm today.



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