For the year, 691 dairy farms went out of business. That’s even worse than we thought. Last week, we reported a loss of 676 farms—but those numbers reflected 12-month losses from December 1, 2018. The correct annual calendar year loss is the 691 farms, or a calendar year loss of 7.9%.
Currently, there are 7,225 Grade A dairy farms, 541 Grade B farms that still ship milk in cans and 344 bulk tank Grade B farms in Wisconsin.
In the past decade, Wisconsin has lost 4,819 milk cow herds, or about 37% of its herds. The rate of losses this year is more than double the rate of loss over the past 10 years.
Cow numbers in Wisconsin have held steady, and in fact are actually up 12,000 head from 10 years ago. In January 2010, cow numbers stood at 1,260,000. In November of 2018, the last month in which data is available, cow numbers in Wisconsin were at 1,272,000.
Consequently, cows per herd has risen dramatically, from 97 cows per herd in 2010 to 155 today, a 60% increase. Coincidentally, this is exactly the percentage increase economists say dairy farms need to grow each decade to remain competitive.