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Milk is produced in all 50 States, with the major producing States in the western and northern areas of the country. Dairy farms, overwhelmingly family owned and managed, are generally members of producer cooperatives. The industry has seen a consistent decline in the number of operations, matched by a rise in the number of cows per operation. Dairy products include fluid beverage milk, cheese, butter, ice cream, yogurt, dry milk products, condensed milk, and whey products. For more U.S. dairy-related information see Background, Market Outlook, Trade, Policy, and Readings.
ERS provides data and reports on dairy markets, including domestic and international supply, demand, trade, and prices.
- The Livestock, Dairy, and Poultry Outlook (LDP), a monthly report that provides supply and use projections for U.S. livestock, dairy, and poultry markets based on USDA's most current World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates report (WASDE).
- Dairy Data, a dataset that includes files covering domestic supply and demand and trade of various dairy products. Data on the U.S. dairy situation and commercial disappearance are updated monthly, and U.S. milk production and related data are updated quarterly. All other data files are updated annually. These include data on dairy per capita consumption; fluid milk sales; milk supply by State and region; milk production and factors affecting supply and utilization of milk in all dairy products; and numbers and size of milk bottling plants.
- WASDE at a Glance, a monthly interactive visualization that provides key data and highlights from the WASDE on livestock and dairy as well as field crops.
- Commodity Costs and Returns, a data product that provides annual estimates of production costs and returns for major field crops, milk, hogs, and cow-calf.
- Price Spreads from Farm to Consumer, a data product that compares prices paid by consumers for food with prices received by farmers for corresponding commodities.
In addition to the periodic Outlook reports and data products, ERS produces reports covering timely issues important to dairy markets in United States and around the world.
Recent ERS publications relating to the dairy sector include:
- Consolidation in U.S. Dairy Farming The number of licensed U.S. dairy herds fell by more than half between 2002 and 2019, with an accelerating rate of decline in 2018 and 2019, even as milk production continued to grow. Production has been shifting to much larger but fewer farms, and that shift shows no sign of slowing. Larger operations realize lower costs of production, on average, and those advantages persist (ERR-274, July 2020).
"It’s in the Genes: Comparing Dairy Bulls’ Ability to Transmit Traits to Their Daughters" USDA’s Economic Research Service and Cornell University researchers used 2017 trait data from a dataset of more than 400 Holstein bulls to estimate the technical, revenue, allocative, and profit efficiency of each bull relative to its peers (Amber Waves, March 2020).
- India's Dairy Sector: Structure, Performance, and Prospects India is the world’s largest producer and consumer of milk. Growth in milk supply and demand has been robust, but projections indicate that production targets will be difficult to reach without stronger gains in productivity. India is now a small net exporter of dairy products, but trade policies have facilitated imports when shortages lead to high domestic prices. (LDPM-272-01, March 2017)
- Growth of U.S. Dairy Exports From 2004 to 2014, the value of U.S. dairy product exports more than quadrupled, and the United States became the world’s third-largest dairy product exporter, behind New Zealand and the European Union. In 2015, as global conditions changed, the value of U.S. dairy exports fell by almost 30 percent. The U.S. dairy industry will be challenged to increase market share in the years to come. (LDPM-270-01, November 2016)
For more ERS publications on dairy see Readings.