It’s true — 74 farms — just 3.16% of all dairies in the Central Federal Milk Marketing Order — produced half of all the milk shipped within that order this past October. That total becomes even more staggering when considering that just 23 farms — barely 1% of all Central Order farms — accounted for 25% of all milk deliveries.
A nine-state region
The Central Federal Milk Marketing Order is one of the most expansive geographically of the 11 Federal Milk Marketing Orders in the United States. It includes the entire states of Kansas (ranked No. 16 in the U.S. for milk production) and Oklahoma (ranked No. 30 in the U.S. for milk production).
Additionally, it covers nearly all the major milk-producing areas of Iowa (ranked No. 12 in the U.S. for milk production), Colorado (ranked No. 15 in the U.S. for milk production), South Dakota (ranked No. 18 in the U.S. for milk production), Illinois (ranked No. 22 in the U.S. for milk production), Nebraska (ranked No. 25 in the U.S. for milk production), and Missouri (ranked No. 26 in the U.S. for milk production). The Central Order also includes a handful of counties in Minnesota and Wisconsin.
According to the December 2019 Marketing Service Bulletin, here are more details about October 2019 milk shipments in the Central Marketing Order:
- First Quartile: 23 farms shipped 25% of the milk
- Second Quartile: 51 farms shipped the second 25% of the milk
- Third Quartile: 170 farms shipped the third 25% of the milk
- Fourth Quartile: the remaining 2,099 farms shipped the final 25%
The math is rather simple — it took 89.6% or 2,099 farms — to ship 25% of the milk.
Two decades ago, when the Central Order was created, 10% of the farms produced 50% of the milk. As stated earlier, the number needed to produce half the milk contracted to 3.16% this past October.
During that same window (2000 to 2019), U.S. cow numbers remained relatively stable at the 9 million mark. However, due to dairy farm exits, herds sizes have grown dramatically. At the turn of the century, the average U.S. herd size was 119 cows. At last count, the average U.S. farm has 251 cows. Hence, the great share of milk coming from fewer and fewer farms.