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PATS ResearchSummary No. 5

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The Wisconsin dairy industry has seen dramatic changes over the last 20 years (Jackson- Smith and Barham, 2000). Overall, dairy farm numbers have been cut in half since the early 1980s, and the average size of remaining herds has increased by more than 60 percent (from roughly 40 cows to over 65 cows per herd). Despite these changes, most dairies are still single-family businesses, relying on household members for virtually all their farm labor requirements (Buttel et al., 2000). In 1998, state statistics suggested that over 70 percent of Wisconsin dairy operations were milking between 30 and 99 cows, and that these herds produced approximately 62 percent of the state’s milk. At the same time, there are growing numbers of relatively large dairy operations in the state, many of which milk cows in new parlor/freestall facilities and use a wide range of modern dairy production technologies and management practices. Farms with over 100 cows account for just 11 percent of all herds, but produce over onethird of the state’s milk.