In 2011, there were 9.19 million dairy cows in the United States, up 0.8 percent from 2010, with these cows producing 196.2 billion pounds of milk, up 1.8 percent over 2010. The number of dairy farms in 2011 dropped by 1,651 to 51,481 commercial licensed dairy farms averaging 179 cows per farm.
Currently dairy farmers receive $15 to $17 per 100 pounds while the cost to produce this milk ranges from $16 to $18, depending on region of the United States, feed costs, herd size, and investments needed to house and manage cows.
"Also in 2011, U.S. dairy cows averaged 21,345 pounds of milk per cow," said Hutjens. "In comparison, the European Union with its 27 countries has 24.1 million dairy cows producing 13,167 pounds of milk per cow."
Continued improvements in efficiency in the U.S. dairy industry reflect higher milk yield per cow, resulting in lower-priced milk and dairy products for U.S. consumers. This successful story is not over as the highest-yielding U.S. Holstein cow produced over 72,000 pounds of milk, he said.