milk industry in the northeast

A Snapshot Of The Milk Hauling Industry in the Northeast: Where We Are Today

According to Dairy Farmers of America (DFA), the Northeast area of the U.S.A. produces 8.2 billion pounds of milk each year —an average of 3.2 million pounds per member farm. The Northeast is tied for first place (with the Southwest) in terms of total production volume in the country. Dairy remains a large industry in the Northeast, and is still the No. 1 agricultural business in New York, Pennsylvania, Vermont and New Hampshire.

While the number of cows has increased in recent years, the number of processing plants and milk haulers has declined. Overall trends are towards larger farms and larger production volumes, however there remain a fair number of mid-sized farms in the Northeast as well. Here’s a quick snapshot of where our industry is today:

Different Sizes

Overall, we’re seeing a decrease in the number of farms but an increase in their size and production, due in large part to advancements in dairy management, nutrition and breeding. Here are some quick facts that demonstrate the trends:

  • Between 1992 and 2011 the number of herds in the Northeast declined by 49%, but in the same period the number of individual cows decreased by only 21%.
  • Across the U.S., the average herd size is now about 142 cows (95 in the Northeast).
  • While 74% of farms have fewer than 100 cows, the other 26% of farms produce 85% of the milk.
  • Our drivers pick up loads from farms producing 1,000 pounds of milk per day, as well as from ones producing more than 150,000 pounds per day.

There is a great diversity of farm and herd sizes.

Different Types

While the number of large-scale, conventional farms may be growing, we’re also seeing many smaller-scale farms (with less than 100 cows) making the switch to organic production. Part of the reason for the shift is that it provides small operators with better return. Here are some quick facts that demonstrate this trend:

  • According to the USDA, there are currently about 875 certified organic farms in the Northeast.

Roughly 80% of the organic farms in the U.S. are located in the Northeast and in the Midwest. There are potentially many more who observe the same practices but who have not been officially certified.

We service a number of farms that operate using traditional farming practices, including Amish farms. We also service larger farms that use robotic and/or automated milking equipment that help to decrease labor cost and increase efficiency.

Different Needs

Due in large part to the variety of sizes and types of farms we visit, our drivers need to be aware of the diversity of needs from one farm to another. While all milk collection tanks at the farm must be rinsed after each pick-up, the way drivers accomplish this varies from farm to farm.

Some farms have advanced cleaning technology that disinfects and sanitizes with the push of a few buttons. At other farms drivers use more traditional equipment such as a garden hose to achieve the same results. Serving different farm sizes also means being aware of different milking schedules and volumes. Routes are determined to fit best with farmers’ schedules and to maximize the driver’s time effectiveness.

All in all, we see a great diversity in both the size and setup of the farms our trucks visit on a daily basis. While many have grown in size, others have scaled down. Many remain conventional, yet a number have made the switch to organic practices. Some have state-of-the-art facilities, but at the same time we also visit a number of farms that prefer traditional farming methods to high-tech equipment. All this produces an incredibly rich and dynamic industry – adding a spice of variety to the consistency of the dairy hauler’s job.