SIC 0241 Dairy Farms


SIC 0241

This classification includes establishments primarily engaged in the production of cows' milk and other dairy products and in raising dairy heifer replacements. Such farms may process and bottle milk on the farm and sell at wholesale or retail. However, the processing and/or distribution of milk from a separate establishment not on the farm is classified in manufacturing or trade. Establishments primarily producing goats' milk are classified in SIC 0214: Sheep and Goats.



Beef Cattle Ranching and Farming


Dairy Cattle and Milk Production


Dairy farming is one of the leading agricultural activities in the United States. Because of scientific advances increasing milk production, the total number of dairy cows in the United States has been declining steadily since 1970, whereas the total output per cow has increased significantly. In 2002, taking all fifty states into consideration, the average milk production per cow was 18,608 pounds. In 2003 that number had increased to 18,760 pounds per cow, and in 2004 it was recorded at 18,957 pounds per cow. Those numbers increase substantially when studying only the states that are responsible for producing the majority of the dairy products in the country. The five top states are California, Wisconsin, New York, Pennsylvania, and Idaho, which together produce more than half of countrywide total.

The dairy farm industry underwent some significant changes during the mid-2000s, caused by changing government regulations regarding milk subsidies and environmental management, geographical shifts in dairy farm populations, increased herd size, and increased milk production per cow. In addition, the number of dairy farms was steadily decreasing while the size of the dairy farms was increasing. Because of their increasing size, the larger dairy farms do not depend as heavily on human labor as they once did. A large portion of the tasks associated with dairy farming are automated—even the milking of cows. Dairy farmers put in long hours with few days off, since the cows must be milked twice a day every day. Farmers also must keep the barns and pens cleared out, clean milking equipment, and keep track of each cow's food consumption and milk production. Most dairy farmers also plant crops to provide feed for their cattle in the winter.


Number and Size of Farms

Every state in the country has dairy farms; however, warmer climates are not generally suited to efficient year-round milk production. Basically, about 88 percent of milk produced in the United States is produced in the 22 states considered to be the nation's Dairy Belt. The Dairy Belt is in the northern region, extending from New York to Minnesota, though California is the largest milk-producing state in the country. Wisconsin, a Dairy Belt state, is the second largest dairy-producing state. Wisconsin led in dairy production for many years, earning the state the title "The Dairy State," but California surpassed it in total dairy production in 1994 and has held the lead ever since. For 1997 and 1998, California produced 7.1 billion pounds of milk during the April-June quarter (the season of highest milk production), while Wisconsin produced 5.8 billion. Other leading dairy states are New York, Pennsylvania, and Minnesota.

Since the 1950s, the number of farms has decreased 50 percent, and the number of farms with dairy cows has decreased almost 90 percent. This is due to the shift toward larger scale, industrial dairy farms. A farm with 100 milking cows was considered big in 1950, while farms with 5,000 milking cows were becoming the norm toward the end of the twentieth century.

As recently as 1987, more than 70 percent of the American dairy farms had fewer than 72 cows, but this large segment of the dairy farmer population produced only about 37 percent of milk sold. However, in the mid- to late 1990s the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reported that larger farms of 100 or more head accounted for 68.4 percent of the country's total dairy herd. In the South and the West, dairy farms of 500 head or more are increasing. Dairy farming...

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