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Dairy in the United States

More than 60,000 U.S. dairy farms provide milk, cheese and yogurt to the United States and other countries. About 99 percent of all dairy farms are family-owned. On dairy farms, the average herd size is 115 cows. 77% of dairy farms have fewer than 100 cows. Farms with more than 100 cows produce about 78% of the milk we drink.

The average cow in the United States produces 6.2 gallons per day over the couse of a typical year. That’s more than 2,275 gallons a year. About 177 billion pounds of milk is produced in the U.S. annually.

Most milk only travels about 100 miles to get from the dairy to your local grocery store. A dairy farm sends milk to a processor by truck and the processor packages the milk (and also butter, ice cream, yogurt and cheese) for sale at grocery stores and farmers markets.

Dairy in Georgia

Dairy in Georgia contributed more than $338 million to the state’s economy in 2012. It encompasses about 22.5% of livestock and aquaculture production at the farm gate level.

The total amount of milk produced in the state during 2012 amounted to 177.9 million gallons (or 1.53 billion
pounds of milk). That milk came from 80,000 milking dairy cows in Georgia.

In Georgia, about 100 percent of the milk produced in 2012 was used and consumed in the form of fluid milk dairy foods. In 2012, Georgia dairy cows produced an average of 7.3 gallons of milk per day, or enough to make 6.3 pounds of cheese or 3 pounds of butter. To produce this much milk, an average cow consumes 40 gallons of water, 25 pounds of grain and feed concentrates and 60 pounds of corn silage. The average value of a day’s milk was about $13.12 per cow during 2012. In 2012, a dairy cow in Georgia cost about $1,470 per head. A typical Georgia dairy farm has a herd of 320 milking cows.

Georgia has three commercial milk processing plants operating during 2012 that located in Atlanta, Braselton, and Lawrenceville. In addition, Georgia has four on-farm milk bottling operations and seven on-farm cheese and yogurt makers. Georgia ranked 24th in milk production, 25th in number of milk cows, 32nd in milk output per cow and 25th in number of licensed dairy operations during 2012 in the United States.

Dairy farms in Georgia are innovative examples of the advances made in modern agriculture production. Some dairy farms transport milk directly from tanks to the truck, which moves milk to the processing facility. All milk is carefully tested for antibiotics and if any antibiotics are found, the milk is quickly disposed of and never reaches the grocery cooler.

The highest producing dairy cattle are a breed called holsteins. These cows eat feed and silage, a form of cud made from corn, sawgrass and sorghum.

Environmental Stewardship

Many dairies are Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs). This means that the Environmental Protection Agency requires dairies to report on water quality around the area where the farm is located. Dairies in Georgia are inspected by the Georgia Department of Agriculture to insure that waste produced from these facilities is properly maintained. Many dairies use the waste produced from their operations to provide natural fertilizer to farmers in surrounding areas. This important economic tool helps other local businesses while also protecting the environment.