How fewer dairy farms in Texas actually translates to more milk produced

How fewer dairy farms in Texas actually translates to more milk produced

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How fewer dairy farms in Texas actually translates to more milk produced

By Darren Turley, TAD executive director

This has been a tough summer for the Texas dairy industry as the dairy areas of our state have not seen rainfall since June. The heat is finally starting to recede (don’t the 90s seem cool?), and some rain is forecast in the upcoming weeks. If and when rain falls, most dairy producers have their land ready to plant winter forages. To add to their headaches, this summer’s weak milk prices have been well below the cost of what it takes them to produce the milk.

To say that everyone is eagerly awaiting fall is an understatement. Prices are expected to start to improve, but production costs should stay elevated this year with the impact of weather and escalated costs of services and labor.

I had a chance to drive by the Leprino Foods cheese processing plant in Lubbock this month and was surprised how completed it looked. Ground was broken on the 850,000 square-foot plant in June 2022, and hiring is already underway for the opening of its first phase of operations expected in 2024. This plant is expected to take 160 loads of milk per day when it is at full capacity. This will help Texas dairy farmers by providing more options for the sale of their milk. By selling their milk to produce cheese, they also should get higher prices for their milk.

The Texas dairy industry continues to shrink through these tough times, with 300 producers in Texas at the end of July, according to the latest report from the Dallas Milk Market Administrator. This is a loss of 15 producers since the start of 2023, which is slightly more dairy farmers than the state lost in all of 2022. It’s hard to believe that 452 dairies operated in Texas a decade ago.

While the Texas dairy industry has continued to lose producers for decades, the drought has increased the pressure on producers, just like the last big drought in 2011 did. Still, however, milk production continues to climb year over year, thanks in part to advancements in genetics and animal handling practices.

Even though I grew up in this industry and have witnessed the increase in milk production over many years, I am still amazed at all the advancements in the industry and the growth that should continue for at least another decade. For example, thanks to the adoption of technology on the farm, we now have so much more data on each animal, which helps dairy farmers more quickly identify and address issues affecting the animal. As a result, health issues have less impact on the cow and its milk production. This monitoring, and even newer technologies to come, should continue to boost herd health and longevity.

Texas producers have been quick to implement new technologies that help them take even better care of their animals. These happy cows will be more productive cows, helping Texas produce more and more milk from fewer cows and farms.

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