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In Focus: Organic dairy stays on growth path

Progressive Dairy Editor Dave Natzke Published on 25 November 2020

While the number of overall U.S. dairy herds continues to decline, the USDA’s latest Certified Organic Survey revealed growth among organic dairies.

Based on the 2019 survey, certified organic dairy herds, cow numbers, milk volume and value were up substantially from 2016.



Organic milk sold during 2019 topped 5.1 billion pounds, up more than 1.1 billion pounds (nearly 22%) from 2016. The value of organic milk sold was up nearly $200 million (14%) from 2016, to $1.585 billion.

The number of farms with certified organic cows was estimated at 3,134 in 2019, up 575 since 2016. Of those, about 3,100 marketed milk in 2019, up 569 (22%) compared to the previous survey.

With more and larger herds than in 2016, cow numbers managed organically increased by 84,383 in 2019. Peak U.S. organic cow numbers during the year were estimated at 363,404 head, ending the year slightly lower at 337,540 head.

Individual states

Three states – New York, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania – were home to nearly one-half of total organic herds. Leading states based on cow numbers were California, Texas, Wisconsin and New York.

While ranking seventh in the number of organic herds, California retained the crown for having the most cows producing organic milk, at 59,427; the highest milk sales, 899.3 million pounds; and the highest value of sales, $273 million.


New York was the growth leader in organic herds selling milk compared to 2016, followed by Wisconsin, up 136 and 72, respectively.

Looking at growth in cow numbers compared to 2016, Texas added 14,744 cows, followed by Idaho, up 13,490.

Cows per herd, milk per cow

The USDA survey report reveals a wide variation in the size of organic dairy herds, from a high of 4,744 cows in Texas and 2,142 in Colorado to less than 100 cows in 18 states for which data is provided. The U.S. average was 117 cows per herd, up about 10 cows from 2016.

Based on total cows and milk production, there’s also a wide range in average milk production per cow, from nearly 21,500 pounds in New Mexico to under 5,000 pounds in Alabama. The U.S. average for milk sold per cow was 14,096 pounds in 2019. end mark

Organic dairy

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