The dairy shift: Fewer but bigger farms

breakfast

Photo by Flickr user mhall209, used under a Creative Commons license (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Abbie Fentress Swanson of Harvest Public Media recently reported on the shrinking number of small dairy farms as consolidation in the industry continues apace. As her piece begins,

Donnie Davidson’s family has been producing bottled milk in Holden, Mo., since the 1930s. But the 63-year-old farmer decided to sell his herd of 50 milking cows in November after the roof on one of his barns collapsed from last winter’s snow.

Rebuilding the barn would have cost about $20,000. Then there were the costs of renovating a silo and paying for hired help since Davidson’s children won’t be taking over the business. It made financial sense to close the dairy, and grow crops and build a herd of beef cattle instead.

In the past decade, more than half the nation’s dairy farms have gone out of business, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture data [PDF]. About 2,500 dairies closed their doors in Missouri. Thousands more have shut down in Iowa, Kentucky, Illinois, Indiana, Nebraska and Colorado.

For full text and audio versions of the story, head here.

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