Small dairy farms are disappearing, and more cows are on the biggest dairy facilities than ever before.
Using the past four iterations of the US Census of Agriculture, this post examines trends on dairy farms by farm size from 1997 to 2012.
Up until the 2007 Ag Census, "1,000+" cattle was the largest category for farm size, and therefore data for dairy farms that have 1,000 or more cattle from 1997 and 2002 are not reflected on the above chart. There were 878 dairy farms with 1,000+ cattle in 1997 and 1,256 in 2002. Both of these numbers are consistent with the trend that is displayed above, and the amount of dairy farms with 1,000+ cows has consistently increased since 1997, while the amount of farms 500 or fewer cattle has consistently decreased.
Not graphed: in 1997 and 2002, there were 1,589,844 and 2,624,508 cattle on dairy farms that had over 1,000+ cattle, respectively. A consistently increasing amount of dairy cattle is on these farms.
Dairy is more industrial than ever. Surprisingly, the distribution of the dairy cow population by farm size is starkly different than that of beef. This indicates that dairy production is much more industrial of the two industries.
This content is CC BY.
The code used to generate these graphs is on GitHub.