Missouri Dairy industry snapshot

Missouri’s State Ranking

Number of cows: 24th

Total milk production: 26th

Milk production per cow: 45th

Dairy cows are located throughout Missouri. However, the Missouri milk cow population tends to concentrate in the state’s southwest and south central regions. In 2020, the Missouri counties with the largest dairy cow inventories were Barry, Wright, Vernon, Lawrence and Scotland counties, though some counties were not reported by USDA to avoid disclosing data for individual operations.

Map showing milk cow inventory by Missouri county as of Jan 1, 2020. Data source: USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service.

Missouri dairy cow inventory has decreased over time. In 2019, Missouri farms maintained 78,000 milk cows. Many nearby states such as Arkansas, Illinois, Kentucky and Tennessee have reduced their dairy cattle inventories over the past two decades. Iowa has generally stayed level over time, while Kansas has experienced growth over the last 10 years.

Line graph showing the number of milk cows in Missouri from 2000 to 2019. In 2000, Missouri had 154,000 dairy cows. Over time, the trend has been a decrease most years. By 2019, Missouri had 78,000 dairy cows. Data source: USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service.

Line graph showing the number of milk cows in Missouri, Kansas, Iowa, Arkansas, Illinois, Kentucky and Tennessee from 2000 to 2019. Missouri, Arkansas, Illinois, Kentucky and Tennessee have reduced their dairy cow inventories over the past two decades. Iowa has stayed stable in dairy cow numbers. Kansas has experienced growth over the past 10 years. Data source: USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service.

The number of Missouri’s dairy farms are declining slowly. In December 2019, 744 permitted dairy farms operated in Missouri. Of these, 540 were Grade A farms, and 204 were manufacturing-grade farms, which includes Amish farms and some goat or sheep dairies.

Bar chart showing number of Grade A and manufacturing grade dairies in Missouri from 2000 to 2019. The number of Missouri’s dairy farms are declining slowly. In December 2000, Missouri has 2,291 permitted dairy farms. By December 2019, 744 permitted dairy farms operated in Missouri. Of these, 540 were Grade A farms, and 204 were manufacturing-grade farms. Data source: USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service.

The dairy industry is an important contributor to Missouri’s economy. During 2018, the state’s dairy industry generated $198 million in milk cash receipts. These receipts represented about 4 percent of livestock cash receipts in Missouri. Additionally, these cash receipts stimulate other economic effects and contribute to the state’s economy.

Line graph showing dollars for Missouri in milk cash receipts from 2000 to 2018. In 2000, Missouri had $269 million in milk cash receipts. Receipts ranged from $337 million to $198 million over the time period. Missouri’s dairy industry generated $198 million in milk cash receipts, which is the lowest point during this time span. Data source: USDA Economic Research Service.

Missouri’s milk production per cow tends to be low when compared to other U.S. states. An average U.S. dairy cow produced 23,391 pounds in 2019 as compared to Missouri’s average of 14,103 pounds. A common explanation for this deviation is the state’s reliance upon pasture-based dairy systems rather than confinement systems. Since 2005, Missouri’s large-scale adoption of low-input intensive rotational grazing dairying has decreased and slowed the growth in the state’s average milk production per cow.

Line graph showing milk production per cow for Missouri from 2000 to 2019. Missouri averaged 14,103 pounds per cow in 2019. Production per cow ranged from 16,026 to 13,441 pounds over the time period. Missouri’s milk production per cow has varied tremendously, due to a surge in low-input rotational grazing dairying since the year 2005. Data source: USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service.

Line graph showing the milk production (pounds) per cow in Missouri, Kansas, Iowa, Arkansas, Illinois, Kentucky and Tennessee from 2000 to 2019. Missouri’s milk production per cow tends to be low when compared to the U.S. states. The U.S. average, Iowa, Kansas and Illinois are the highest among selected states and have steadily grown over time. Kentucky has grown considerably since 2013 and sits in the middle range along with Tennessee. Arkansas has mostly remained the lowest over the time period, below Missouri’s average. Data source: USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service.