By: Phil Durst, Michigan State University Extension
Michigan is now the seventh leading dairy state for total milk production, up from eighth place as it out produced Minnesota in 2013.
Rather than a one-year surge, Michigan’s increasing prominence in U.S. dairy is the result of consistent growth in cow numbers and production since 2000. Total milk production in the state has increased 45 percent since 2004 and in the past 10 years the state has been in the top five states for milk production growth.
Michigan’s dairy growth impacts the entire state economy with increased income and jobs. The 2012 on-farm dairy receipts were greater than $1.675 billion dollars. Those dollars are invested back in communities in wages, professional services, feed and supply purchases, building and equipment investment and more. As the industry grows, it also provides more jobs both directly on farms and indirectly in the businesses that service the dairy industry.
Michigan’s growth in milk production is even more impressive when one examines the factors that account for its growth. Dairy cow numbers in the state increased by 80,000 since the year 2000 as producers expanded their herds and new producers moved in. In 2013, the average herd size in Michigan was 187 cows.
Even as many producers expanded their herds, they achieved greater milk production per cow. The average cow in Michigan now is producing 24,116 lb. annually. That is approximately 7.7 gal. per day. This is the third greatest milk production rate in the United States.
Compared to its Midwest neighbors, Michigan dairy farmers out-produce farms in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Ohio, Indiana and Illinois by 2,400–4,500 lb. of milk per cow, per year. U.S. growth in dairy cow numbers has been primarily in the West and Southwest. Today, the top 10 dairy states include California (#1), Idaho (#4), Texas (#6) and New Mexico (#9) as well as Eastern and Midwest states with a long tradition of dairy farming including. However, Michigan’s growth in total milk production far exceeds that of any of the states east of the Rocky Mountains.
Advantages of Michigan for milk production include the climate, season and soils for growing corn silage and alfalfa forages, the availability of sand to use as cow bedding and the availability of water to feed thirsty cows. But more important than these are the progressive nature of Michigan farmers and the professionals, organizations and businesses that work with dairy farmers. Michigan State University also is an important asset, providing training for students on campus and research that improves production efficiency and profitability; research that is shared with the producers through Michigan State University Extension educators.
Though Michigan dairy cow numbers are higher than they have been in years, they are nowhere near the peak in dairy cow numbers in the state. The record year was 1945 when dairy farmers in the state milked more than 1 million cows. Because dairy farming has the potential to negatively impact water and air quality, Michigan’s dairy producers are working hard to protect the environment and prevent accidents that would degrade the quality of Michigan’s environmental resources.
Michigan dairy farming is a great success story. As cow numbers and milk production increase, Michigan farmers are increasingly feeding more of the US and world population that need good nutrition. Michigan dairy producers also supply some of the highest quality milk in the nation, ranking second in the nation in 2012 for lowest somatic cell count, a measure of milk quality and cow udder health.
The growth in milk production has brought increased investment in milk processing plants to the state and increased investment in the infrastructure and businesses that serve agriculture.
There is still potential for more growth in Michigan dairy. That is great news for the state and for consumers. So toast the accomplishment of Michigan dairy by raising a glass of milk, tipping your ice cream cone, clicking your cups of yogurt or slicing off another chunk of cheese for Michigan dairy producers and professionals!