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1409 PD: 500: The most intriguing dairy size today

Published on 21 September 2009

For years I’ve been fascinated by the 500-cow dairy. They’re not small, yet not large either. They are a growing dairy.

Producers tell me it’s an awkward size operation to run. Most 500-cow dairies probably eventually expand and grow out of what could be called the dairy industry’s adolescent stage.

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Progressive Dairyman recently conducted a survey of 297 dairies to ask them a few questions about what makes them tick, how they make decisions and what they were likely to do in the next five years.

Dairies with 500 to 999 cows had the most interesting responses. Most producers owning this size dairy were between the ages of 40 and 60 years old.

Nearly 25 percent of these producers felt their dairies were in the top 10 percent of dairies in the country with respect to efficiency, productivity and profitability. This group was also the most likely to purchase feed they did not grow themselves from off-site.

For the data you see* displayed on this page spread, I’ve lumped the 500-to-999-cow dairy owner responses with responses from 1,000+ cow dairies and compared them to responses from dairy producers owning fewer than 500 cows.

I make no insinuations about which of these groups will be more profitable or viable long term. As has been previously discussed in this issue, dairies of all sizes can be profitable. PD

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Top 10 states with 500+ cow dairies in 2007

1. California
1,100
2. Wisconsin
280
3. Idaho
230
4. New York
210
5. Texas
200
6. New Mexico
140
7. Washington
140
8. Michigan
115
9. Minnesota
90
10. Florida
75

*Spread omitted but available upon request to

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