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April 2009

Michigan Dairy Farming: Progressive and Resilient

Dave Beede
Richard Pursley
Dept. of Animal Science

While total milk production and number of dairy cows declined significantly in many states over the last 5 years, Michigan is headed in the other direction. Michigan’s total milk production increased 19% and the state’s dairy herd increased from 302,000 to 335,000 cows between 2003 and 2007. Quite remarkably, over the same time period milk production per cow increased substantially (Michigan Ag Statistics).

Michigan currently ranks 4th in the U.S. and 1st in states east of the Rocky Mountains in milk produced per cow, averaging 22,681 lb/cow in 2007 (USDA Statistics). This is a testament to the high-level skill and innovative nature of Michigan dairy farmers, their consultants, and the allied industries. Michigan producers have taken advantage of the biological and technological advancements in genetics, reproductive management, nutrition, cow comfort, health and well-being, and information management through one of the most extensive dairy support systems in the U.S.

Even though dairy herds in Michigan are becoming larger, just like in the rest of the country, our dairy producers are finding ways to make their cows more efficient. The more effectively we can select, feed and manage dairy cows the more profitable and sustainable dairy farms will be (see companion article, page 10). Michigan also ranked 1st in gross revenue per cow (pounds of milk produced X all milk price) in 2007.

Not only do these metrics indicate progressiveness, but they also infer that our producers know how to take the very best care of their animals. There is a very strong correlation between milk production per cow, and cow health and welfare. This bodes well for the future of the dairy industry in Michigan. Only the very progressive (and innovative) producers will survive tough economic times and we are fortunate to be in a state that traditionally can compete at a very high level and maintain a vibrant dairy industry.

Because of the progressive and ever resilient nature of our state’s producers, dairy farming is a very significant revenue generator and multiplier in Michigan’s economy. In 2007, milk accounted for nearly 26% of the total $5.7 billion (that’s with a ‘B’) in cash receipts from the top 20 agricultural commodities in Michigan (Figure 1). Based on a recent MSU Product Center summary of information from 2003 through 2007, Michigan dairy cows produced milk revenue worth $1.9 B annually. Coupled with $4.0 B in annual economic activity from the state’s dairy foods manufacturing sector, the dairy industry generated total annual average revenue of $5.9 B (Figure 2). This is big, nearly 10% of Michigan agriculture’s total annual $60 B plus contribution to the state’s economy.

 

 

 

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