Cow Numbers Witnessed a Rollercoaster Ride in 2021

At the beginning of June 2021, the U.S. milking herd consisted of 9.503 million dairy cows.
At the beginning of June 2021, the U.S. milking herd consisted of 9.503 million dairy cows.
(Taylor Leach)

Dairy cow numbers started 2021 at an all-time high in January, with 9.445 million animals in the U.S. milking herd. Those numbers would steadily increase before hitting a new record high in May, totaling out at 9.507 million, a jump of 62,000 animals. For the rest of the year, however, these numbers would begin to fall.

At the beginning of June 2021, the U.S. milking herd consisted of 9.503 million dairy cows. For seven consecutive months, these numbers would decline. At the conclusion of 2021, the U.S. herd finished at 9.375 million, a drop of 132,000 cattle since May, down nearly 1.5%. This resulted in a loss of 67,000 head year-over-year.


According to the USDA Milk Production report released late last month, states who lost the most cows in 2021 include:

  • New Mexico – Down 45,000
  • Washington – Down 18,000
  • Ohio – Down 10,000
  • Pennsylvania – Down 8,000
  • New York – Down 6,000

In contrast, states who added to their herds in that same time frame include:

  • South Dakota – Up 29,000
  • Wisconsin – Up 16,000
  • Texas – Up 12,000

Higher feed costs and intense drought out West caused some farmers to bump up their culling decisions, leading to a jump in dairy cow culling rates in 2021. According to the USDA, U.S. annual dairy cow slaughter reached 3.1 million head in 2021, 42,700 more than the year prior.


Latest News

Mineral and Vitamin Considerations When Drylotting Cows

Managing cows in a drylot can be a way to maintain the herd when forage production is reduced. However, it's important to make sure cows are getting the vitamins and minerals they need.

For the Love of the Game, How Agriculture Helped Birth the Game of Basketball

It may not seem like basketball has a strong connection to agriculture, but from the balls used in the NBA, to the sport itself, agriculture has direct ties to a sport that takes over televisions during March Madness.

Over-the-Counter Antibiotics: What You Need to Know Before June 11

On June 11, FDA’s Guidance for Industry #263 brings 91 over-the-counter antimicrobial products from OTC to prescription oversight. Three experts weigh in on why you need to prepare for this change now.

'Sacrifice Pastures' Spare Best Cattle Grazing Pastures

So-called “sacrifice pastures” might be needed to help promote forage production the rest of this cattle grazing season.

Cattle Chat: Understanding Hardware Disease

Cattle sometimes eat objects that they shouldn’t. On a recent Cattle Chat podcast, veterinarians discussed the signs of hardware disease and offered suggestions on ways to manage the incidence.

12 Ways to Prevent the Spread of Disease in Feedlots

Sound management, health protocols and facilities maintenance can help achieve the ultimate goal of keeping cattle healthy and productive.