You might think dairy is dairy is dairy. Not quite. The dairy industry is incredibly diverse in how cows are housed, how they’re fed and how they’re milked, just to name a few things.

“There’s no one formula that guarantees success,” said Dianne Shoemaker, a field specialist in dairy production economics with Ohio State University Extension. “There’s no one way to milk cows that will put you in the top third of dairy farms. I take that as good news. There are multiple ways to be good.”

Similarly, the way states handle their dairy industries is diverse. Dairy means different things to Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia. Each state’s approach reflects that.

In Pnnsylvania, a state with more than 6,000 dairy farms, dairy is a big deal. In Ohio, dairy is one of many agricultural resources. West Virginia has … well, you’ll see.

So what’s the right way? That’s hard to say. What I can say, after months of reporting, is that people who care are doing what they can to support their farmers, no matter where they are.

by the numbers

United States

Licensed Dairy Herds

Average number of dairy farms licensed to sell milk

2008: 57,127
2018: 37,468

Milk Cows

1,000 head

2008: 9,315
2018: 9,339

Milk Production

in million pounds

2008:189,992
2018: 217,575

Ohio

Licensed Dairy Herds

Average number of dairy farms licensed to sell milk

2008: 3,360
2018: 2,200

Milk Cows

1,000 head

2008: 280
2018: 259

Milk Production

in million pounds

2008: 5,130
2018: 5,532

Pennsylvania

Licensed Dairy Herds

Average number of dairy farms licensed to sell milk

2008: 7,670
2018: 6,200

Milk Cows

1,000 head

2008: 549
2018: 519

Milk Production

in million pounds

2008: 10,575
2018: 10,665

West Virginia

Licensed Dairy Herds

Average number of dairy farms licensed to sell milk

2008: 110
2018: 75

Milk Cows

1,000 head

2008: 12
2018: 7

Milk Production

in million pounds

2008: 181
2018: 111

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Rachel is a reporter with Farm and Dairy and a graduate of Clarion University of Pennsylvania. She married a fourth-generation beef and sheep farmer and settled down in her hometown in Beaver County. Before coming to Farm and Dairy, she worked at several daily and weekly newspapers throughout Western Pennsylvania covering everything from education and community news to police and courts.

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