Details of small dairy consolidation

Contraction in the number of small dairies in the United States has been underway for quite a while, even before the financial challenges of the last two years.

The 2017 census of agriculture showed more than 30,000 operations had fewer than 200 diary cows, that is a reduction of almost 48,000 in just 10 years prior. USDA research economist James McDonald says that this trend is not surprising but some other information could prove interesting.

“Production has been shifting to larger farms, but what we mean by larger is what has really changed over time,” he said. “Most cows today are on farms with herds of a thousand or more cows, but where the real expansion is going on is in very large herds, places with 5,000-10,000, even up to 30,000.”