Dairymen, don’t shoot to be ‘just average,’ even by DHI standings


It is always important to monitor the yield of milk and the composition of milk, especially for the individual farmer, because the income of the dairy farm depends on this source of revenue.

The yields of protein and fat are the primary determinants of the price received by farmers. And the proportions of fat and protein are useful in monitoring cow health and feeding practices within a farm.

The income over feed costs (IOFC) and feed costs per hundred pounds of milk are also important monitors of costs of milk production.

Where do you rank?

The average production of milk, fat, and protein by breed for Ohio dairy herds in 2009 using the Dairy Herd Improvement program (official test option only) are provided in Table 1 (link opens .pdf).

Not all herds on DHI are included in the table because of the different testing options offered by DHI. Some herds opt for no release of records, or there may be a lack of sufficient number of test dates.

More cross-breeding

Over the past 15 years for official herds on DHI, the number of Ayrshire cows has dropped by about 30 percent, Brown Swiss and Jersey dropped by about 50 percent, Guernsey dropped by about 80 percent, Holstein dropped by about 65 percent, and the mixed breed has increased by almost two-fold, reflective of the cross-breeding that is occurring today in dairy herds.

During the same time period, the number of dairy farms in Ohio has decreased by about 50 percent.

Some dairy industry statistics for Ohio and the U.S. are provided in Table 2 (link to .pdf at end of story).

Ohio herds larger

Over the past 15 years, the average herd size in Ohio has almost doubled. The average herd size of DHI herds has increased by 60 percent, slightly less than the Ohio average.

Although the number of herds on DHI has decreased, the proportion of herds on official DHI test has remained about the same over the past 15 years (approximately 15 percent).

It is important to note that many others herds are on other testing options with DHI, which overall has increased the proportion of herds using DHI services compared to several years ago.

Milk yields

The average milk yield per cow, whether for all Ohio, Ohio herds on DHI, or for the U.S., has increased 1 to 2 percent per year.

As has been discussed for a long time, the average milk yield in Ohio is lower that for the U.S., about 1,800 pounds in 2009. Some of this has been attributed to forage quality issues in Ohio and a higher proportion of colored breeds (especially Jersey) in Ohio compared to most other states.

The average milk yield for Ohio DHI herds is higher than the average milk yield in Ohio and the U.S. Over the past 15 years, the average milk yield of Ohio DHI herds has been about 3,400 pounds higher than the average for all herds in Ohio.

Even at $15/hundredweight, that would equate to about an additional $500/cow per year or $50,000 for a 100-cow herd, or $250,000 for a 500-cow herd.

But as we know, being average is not the benchmark in being able to survive in today’s dairy industry.

The high DHI Holstein herd in 2009 averaged 33,225 pounds/cow (150-cow herd) and the high Ohio Holstein herd in 1995 averaged 29,423 pounds/cow (123 cows), each being 43 percent and 50 percent, respectively above the DHI breed average.

With today’s high cost of production, the benchmark has to be set at being above “average”.

Dairy industry statistics from 1995-2010 (Ohio herds, Ohio DHI, U.S.)


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