An auction marked the end of the last dairy farm in Plainfield, Vermont – a small town that once had several dozen – and the 14th dairy farm to go out of business in Vermont this year. A few small dairies have opened, but overall, the number of farms continues to drop in a state long known for its milk and cheese. Farmers say they can’t make ends meet when milk prices are low and feed and fuel costs keep going up.
While the number of dairy cows in the U.S. hasn’t changed much, the number of dairy farms has been dropping as small farms either go out of business or consolidate to become more competitive and cost effective.
The number of dairy farms nationally has dropped from nearly 92,000 in 2002 to less than 70,000 in 2007, according to the last agricultural census, which is being updated this year.
That’s not the whole picture though. The number of small farms, with 100 to 199 cows, fell from about 11,000 to about 9,000 during that time, while those with more than 1,000 cows grew from about 1,300 to almost 1,600.
The shift has affected states like Vermont and Wisconsin, which have strong dairying histories, but tend to have smaller farms than other major milk-producing states like California and Texas.
Wisconsin has lost nearly 200 herds so far this year and now has about 11,600.
The farm closures are likely to continue with milk prices expected to keep falling this summer.
The U.S. had been gradually losing dairy farms for decades, but then milk prices plummeted during the recession and fuel costs soared in 2009. Vermont lost 52 dairies that year, while Wisconsin lost 519.
Source: The Buffalo News
Posted on Thursday, May 24, 2012 (Archive on Thursday, May 31, 2012)
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