Wisconsin Dairies Hit Record Lows, Down Nearly 50% Since 2003

Wisconsin has said goodbye to 638 dairy herds in 2018 alone. ( Farm Journal )

The poor dairy economy has hit farms across the country hard, impacting not only producers’ wallets, but state herd numbers as well.

Taking one of the largest hits has been Wisconsin, who has said goodbye to 638 dairy herds in 2018 alone, according to state Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection. To date, Wisconsin has lost 7,785 herds since December 2003, a loss of 49.8% in 16 years.


During the past 15 years, Wisconsin has seen an average number of 486 herds lost annually. Spiking in 2011, 645 herds exited the industry, the highest amount in that span of time. This is just seven herds higher than 2018.


However, when compared on a percentage basis, 2018 saw 7.2% of producers hang up their milkers compared to 2011’s 5.1%. In 2016, Wisconsin saw 352 herds leave, or 3.2%, the lowest percentage to date.

According to Mike North, president of the Dairy Business Association, the decline is not surprising given the current market and long-term trend toward industry consolidation. Recent price reactions to new tariffs on United States dairy products have definitely motivated some farmers to leave the industry early this year, North told Wisconsin Public Radio earlier this year.

Since 2008, the number of dairies in the state has seen a reduction of 39.4% over the past ten years, dropping from 13,478 to 8,163. With 2019 milk prices predicted to resemble 2018for the first half of the year, Wisconsin’s current herd number may soon drop below 8,000 in the early months of 2019.

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