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  September 23, 2010

A thought-provoking article on structural change in the dairy industry.

As Dairy Transitions Toward the Hog Model, Will the Sun Set on the Large Family Farm Era?

by Chad Dechow, Associate Professor, Dairy Cattle Genetics, Dept. of Dairy and Animal Science, Penn Stat University

Conventional wisdom maintains that large family farms are the future of the dairy industry. A 2003 Cornell University study used historical dairy industry data to project the future structure of the US dairy industry and concluded that the number of farms with fewer than 100 cows would decline by 92% from the year 2000 to the year 2020. The conclusion from many when they see such projections is that small farms are a thing of the past and that milk will be produced predominately on large family dairy farms in the future. I believe that is likely to prove incorrect and that we may witness the end of the large family dairy era.

Models attempting to describe the future of the dairy industry, like the previously mentioned study, have extrapolated past dairy trends into the future. We would be well served to also consider trends in more mature industries, like the hog industry. Figure 1 below shows the proportion of the nation’s hog farms by different size classes and the proportion of pork that those size classes produce. Full Story


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