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U.S. Dairy Industry

September 2014

There are dairy farms in all 50 states and Puerto Rico. Dairy is the number-one agricultural business in Arizona, California, Idaho, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, Pennsylvania, Utah, Vermont and Wisconsin. About 97 percent of US dairy farms are family owned and operated, the majority – 74 percent – have fewer than 100 cows, and the average dairy herd size is 115 cows.

The dairy farm families across the United States contribute some impressive numbers, including:

  • In 2011, the milk produced by U.S. dairy farmers was processed into:
    • More than 1.8 billion pounds of butter
    • More than 10.5 billion pounds of cheese
    • More than 1.9 billion pounds of nonfat dry milk
    • More than 1.4 billion pounds of ice cream
  • In 2011, Wisconsin led the nation with 12,100 dairy farms, followed by Pennsylvania with 7,200, New York with 5,400, Minnesota with 4,300, and Ohio with 3,100. The United States Department of Agriculture reported more than 51,000 U.S. dairy farms in 2011.
  • Dairy herds in the United States are quite diverse. The average dairy herd in the United States has about 115 cows. New Mexico has the largest dairies, averaging 2,350 cows, followed by Arizona, which averages 1,709 cows; the remaining top five include Nevada with an average of 1,450 cows, California with 1,056 cows, and Idaho with 1,005 cows.
  • The nation’s top milk-producing states, with their share of the nation’s milk produced, are California
    (21 percent), Wisconsin (13 percent), Idaho (6.8 percent), New York (6.5 percent), and Pennsylvania (5.4 percent).
  • The average cow in the United States produces about seven gallons of milk per day; however, the production by some high-producing cows can be twice that amount.
  • In 2011, the United States produced more than 196 billion pounds of milk. This is equivalent to nearly 23 billion gallons.


Information provided by “2013 Dairy Producer Highlights,” published by the National Milk Producers Federation (November 2012) and the U.S. Dairy Export Council®.