Changes in milk production in the Northeast

April 23, 2021

States in the Northeast have been losing dairy farms since the 1970s. These losses are not confined just to the Northeast — the entire country has lost dairy farms. However, the loss of dairy farms is not the whole story.

Holsteins in barn

Photo by Jo Ann McArthur via Unsplash

Milk production has increased both nationally and in the Northeast since 1970.

How has milk production increased while the number of dairy farms has significantly decreased?

To start, herd sizes have increased, a little in the northeast and significantly in many states west of the Mississippi River. The most important factor in increased production is milk produced per cow. Milk per cow is up from 1970 by more than double: 10,500 pounds per cow average in 1970 to 22,300 pounds per cow in 2020. Milk per cow is an important measurement in milk production. The increase in the pounds of milk a cow produces per year is largely due to the improvements in nutrition. Another contributor is a shift away from cows that produce less milk to Holsteins that naturally produce more milk, but with a lower fat content.

The charts on this page show dairy trends in the Northeast. The data supporting the charts come from the  Economic Research Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

In short, fewer cows, more milk, less percentage of total U.S. production. Milk production in the Northeast has increased at a much slower rate than in the Midwest, and especially the far west.

The March 2021 issue of Hoard’s Dairyman presented some statistics on milk production on the U.S. dairy industry:


Articles in the same issues of Hoard’s Dairyman also discussed the drop in fluid milk sales during the same period, offset by an increase in cheese and yogurt production. The farmer is paid less for milk used in cheese or yogurt production than for fluid milk for drinking.

To put the CSG East region in comparison, the top five milk producing states are in order, California, Wisconsin, Idaho, New York, and Texas. Pennsylvania dropped to seventh place.  The five fastest growing dairy states are all west of the Mississippi.

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