Dairy farms need to change the way they do busi ness to survive, agricultural experts and others say.
And many of those who remain in the business have done just that. Some have trimmed herds to cut expenses, and others, like Trissel, have diversified, adding poultry and beef operations to their farms, or in Trissel's case, selling equipment.
Declining profits aren't the only reason for the falling numbers of dairy cows in the commonwealth, some say.
And yet, milk production in Virginia hasn't dropped at a corresponding rate with the decrease in cows. Production dropped from 2 billion pounds in 1960, to just 1.7 billion pounds in 2010, according to the USDA.
That has as much to do with advances in farming techniques than anything else.
While the number of milk cows in the commonwealth continues to decline, the remaining animals are producing more milk. A single dairy cow today produces roughly three times as much milk as it did in 1960, according to USDA statistics.
Farmers attribute the increase in individual milk production to new farming technology, and a greater understanding of how to make cows produce milk. That includes growth hormones, which have become a popular - and controversial - way to increase milk production. The injection of hormones and other supplements into dairy cows is anathema to environmental and animal-rights groups and the growing ranks of organic farmers.
But there's no arguing that it's allowed farmers to do more with less.
"Even with numbers down, we haven't lost that much milk," Welsh said.
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.