The U.S. dairy industry says the “decline of the family farm” and the “rise of the corporate farm” are not accurate descriptions of American agriculture. While the number of dairy farms declined, it has not at all diminished the dominance of family-run dairies.
Smaller family farms often grow to accommodate additional family members coming into the operation. Of the estimated 39,442 farms of all sizes with dairy cows, USDA data says more than 38,200 were family-operated. That’s a total of 97 percent of dairies, a high number that’s not moving despite any consolidation.
For example, the number of farms with dairy cattle was over 48,000 in 2016, but the family-farm percentage that year was 97.3, a remarkably consistent number.
The average size of a U.S. dairy farm has grown from 50 cows in 1990 to about 300 today. Even though they’re larger, the family farm is still the bedrock of American dairy farming.