Even before the financial challenges of the last two years, contraction of small and even medium sized dairies had been underway for some time.
According to the 2017 Consensus of Agriculture, there were over 30,000 operations with fewer than 200 dairy cows, a drop of roughly 10,000 in roughly a decade. USDA Research Economist, James MacDonald, said recent Farm Bill safety net programs for dairy have helped slow the decline in small dairy farms.
“As a fraction of the total revenues the farm industry sees if you’re a small-scale dairy farmer they’re still pretty modest.”
However, as more small producers turn to robotic milking systems and other innovations, MacDonald suggests, “if robots turn out to work and get widely adopted they could provide an advantage for smaller farms of slow that rapid shift of production to larger farms that we’ve been seeing.”
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