The U.S. dairy farm sector has seen tremendous growth in recent decades. During the quarter century from 1950 to 1975, farm milk production averaged about 120 billion pounds with no discernible trend. Since then, however, farm milk production has grown nearly 75 percent, reaching a record level in 2013 of over 201.2 billion pounds. This growth has occurred while the number of milk cows in the U.S. has remained relatively constant since 1998 after falling consistently in the prior decades. Meanwhile, milk output per cow has shown consistent growth, setting a record in 2013 at 21,822 pounds per cow.
- Total farm milk production in 2013 was 0.3 percent higher than the record set in 2012. This was 18.1 percent higher than 10 years ago in 2003.
- At 9.22 million head, the average number of milk cows during 2013 fell by 16,000 compared to 2012. This compares to the annual average between 1998 and 2012 of 9.15 million head.
- Milk output per cow was 100 pounds higher in 2013 than the prior year, a growth rate of only 0.46 percent, far below the average annual growth rate of 1.64 percent for the prior 10-year period.
- There were several changes in the ranking of the top ten milk producing states in 2013. New York, which lost its third place ranking to Idaho in 2011, moved back into the third spot in 2013. In addition, Michigan moved past Minnesota to claim seventh place. In total, the top ten milk producing states accounted for 73.9 percent of all U.S. farm milk production in 2013, down slightly from 74.0 percent in 2012.
- USDA has discontinued the annual collection and publication of data on the number of U.S. farm operations with one or more milk cows, including information about the number of farms by various number of milk cows categories. Instead, this information will be available only every 5 years from the Census of Agriculture; the last census was conducted for the year 2012. USDA continues to publish data (only since 2002) on the number of dairy herds licensed to sell milk, which fell to 46,960 in 2013, a decline of 4.7 percent from 2012.
Updated February 2015