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Milk has a farm value of production second only to beef among livestock industries and equal to corn, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Dairy farms, overwhelmingly family-owned and managed regardless of size, are generally members of producer cooperatives. Dairy products range from cheese, fluid milks, yogurt, butter, and ice cream to dry or condensed milk and whey products, used mostly as ingredients in processed foods. Cheese and fluid milk products now use most of the milk supply.

According to USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service, the annual production of milk in the U.S. during 2004 was 170.8 billion pounds. Annual production per cow in the U.S. averages 21,990 pounds of milk, up 16% since 1995. The average cow produces enough milk each day to fill 6 gallon jugs, 55 pounds of milk.

A typical dairy cow weighs 1,400 pounds and consumes about 50 pounds of dry matter each day. The average cow drinks from 30 to 50 gallons of water each day, about a bathtub's worth. Cows have an acute sense of smell, and can smell something up to 6 miles away. Most cows chew at least 50 times per minute, and spend 10 hours a day chewing their cud in order for saliva production to buffer their rumen to a pH of 6.0. There are approximately 340 to 350 "squirts" in a gallon of milk.

All 50 states in the U.S. have dairy farms. There are 86,310 dairy farms in the U.S., with an average 105 cows per herd. About 65 percent of U.S. dairy farms are located in the Northern Crescent, those states adjacent to the Great Lakes.  The top five dairy states in 2004 were: 1. California; 2. Wisconsin; 3. New York; 4. Pennsylvania; and 5. Minnesota. As with other types of agricultural operations, dairy farms have been increasing in size and decreasing in total numbers.

Although dairy farms provide a greater percentage of household income to operators than do grain farms, the average household incomes of dairy farm operators are declining. Dairy farm households rely heavily on the farm for income

Dairy Farm Links:

Wikipedia entry on dairy farming

Dairy Farming Today


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