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Wisconsin Loses 818 Dairies in 2019, Largest Decline in State History

January 9, 2020

Jim Dickrell

Wisconsin, known nationally as the nation’s dairy state, lost 818 dairy farms in 2019, a full 10% of its dairy herds, according to the latest numbers from the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection.

As of Jan. 1, 2020, Wisconsin had 7,292 licensed dairy farms. On Jan. 1, 2019, the number stood at 8,110. In the last decade, the state lost 5,637 dairy farms, a decrease of 44%. That also suggests the rate of dairy farmer loss has more than doubled the last few years.

The number of Grade A dairies in Wisconsin is now 6,574; the number of Grade B dairies is 718 which includes 470 farms still shipping milk in cans.

Cow numbers have also declined slightly. In November of this year (the latest numbers available), the estimated number of dairy cows stood at 1,265,000, or 7,000 head less than a year ago. Cow numbers, however, had been fairly stable over the past decade. Ten years ago, Wisconsin reported cow numbers at 1,258,000.

In other words, Wisconsin farms have grown fewer but larger. Using these numbers, the average herd size in Wisconsin is about 170 cows per herd today. In 2009, it was roughly 100 cows per herd.

Total milk production has also soared some 20%. Numbers have not yet been totaled for 2019. In 2018, Wisconsin produced 30.6 billion pounds of milk. Ten years ago, the state produced just over 25 billion pounds of milk.


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