3 percent of dairies produce half of milk supply

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has come out with a report that shows just how rapidly consolidation is occurring within the dairy industry.

According to the "Farms, Land in Farms, and Livestock Operations, 2011 Summary," slightly more than half of the U.S. milk supply was produced last year on farms with 1,000 or more cows. This is the first time the 50 percent threshold has been exceeded by 1,000-plus dairies. 

To be precise, 50.3 percent of the milk supply came from farms with 1,000 or more cows and 34.6 percent came from farms with more than 2,000 cows.

The USDA counted 60,000 dairy operations in 2011, and 1,750 of those had more than 1,000 cows. Therefore, 2.9 percent of the nation's farms are producing half of the milk supply.  

In 2006, farms with 1,000 or more cows produced 38.1 percent of the nation's milk supply, and by 2007 that had increased to 41.8 percent, according to a similar USDA report released in February 2008.