While the headline sounds apocalyptic, it merely is a continuation of the long-term trend of fewer and larger farms. In 2003, there were just over 70,000 licensed dairy farms in the country. In 2018, that number will fall below 40,000 for the ﬁrst time representing a loss of 30,000 farms in only 15 years. Over the last decade, the U.S. has lost nearly 1,900 farms on average each year. The smallest loss was in 2015, following record high milk prices in 2014, when only 1,275 farms left the business. The largest loss was in 2013 when just over 2,300 dairy farms closed. That high could be eclipsed in 2018 given the ongoing challenges farms have faced this year. If this trend continues, by 2030, there will be approximately 20,000 dairy farms remaining in the U.S. This has important implications for the entire dairy industry. Despite the downtrend in the number of farms, milk production continues to steadily increase 1-2 percent per year. This increase is attributable to more productive cows due to advancements in genetics, feeding, health and other factors impacting cow comfort. The number of cows has remained relatively constant between 9.1 to 9.4 mil- lion cows since 2006 despite the decreasing number of dairy farms resulting in the average herd size growing from 100 cows in 1998 to 234 cows in 2017. With continued cow productivity and fewer dairy farms, the average dairy farm will have over 400 cows by 2030.
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