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Dairy is $4.6 billion industry in state, second only to swine in livestock sector

WILLMAR -- There may be fewer dairy farms and cows than in previous years, but the dairy production and processing industry remains a powerful force in west central Minnesota and for the entire state.

According to the 2009 Minnesota Dairy Industry Profile from the state Department of Agriculture, there are about 4,700 dairy farms in the state producing about 8.8 billion pounds of milk each year.

The state is home to about 470,000 head of dairy cows, about 5 percent of the nation's herd. The state has grown its dairy cow numbers for the past five years while other, larger dairy states have decreased cow numbers.

On average, a Minnesota dairy cow produces 6.1 gallons of milk per day, which is more than 2,236 gallons, about 19,000 pounds per year, according to statistics from the Midwest Dairy Association. Cow productivity has increased about 34 percent over the last two decades. In 1990, the average per cow production was 14,000 pounds per year.

Minnesota ranks sixth in the nation, behind California, Wisconsin, New York, Idaho and Pennsylvania in milk production, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture statistics.

Dairy is the state's second largest livestock sector, second only to the $7 billion swine production sector which includes about 35 percent of livestock receipts.

Dairy contributes 24 percent of the state's total livestock cash receipts, which is slightly ahead of cattle and calves' 23 percent. Poultry contributes 17 percent of the annual receipts.

Dairy production in the state consumes 44 million bushels of corn, about 4 percent of the annual crop, and 141,699 tons of soybean meal, about 15 percent of the crop.

The state's dairy industry includes both dairy production and processing with a combined total annual output of $4.6 billion and the creation of almost 40,000 jobs in the state.

According to the state Department of Agriculture dairy report, Minnesota is the fifth-largest exporting state. In 2007, the state exported $113 million worth of dairy products including 80 percent of its dry and condensed milk, 15 percent of its cheese production and 6 percent of its butter.

-- Gretchen Schlosser

Gretchen Schlosser

Gretchen Schlosser is the public safety reporter, and writes about agriculture occasionally, for the West Central Tribune. She's been with the Tribune since 2006 and has 17 years of experience working in news, media and communications. 

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