Missouri Dairy industry snapshot
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 2019, 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.
The Missouri dairy cow inventory has decreased over time. Since 2010, however, the inventory reductions have slowed. In 2018, Missouri farms maintained 83,000 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.
The number of Missouri's dairy farms are declining slowly. In December 2018, 883 permitted dairy farms operated in Missouri. Of these, 625 were Grade A farms, and 258 were manufacturing-grade farms, which includes Amish farms and some goat or sheep dairies.
The dairy industry is an important contributor to Missouri's economy. During 2017, the state's dairy industry generated $228 million in milk cash receipts. Milk cash receipts represented about 5 percent of the total livestock cash receipts in Missouri in 2017. Additionally, these cash receipts stimulate other economic effects and contribute to the state's economy. In 2016, the Missouri dairy industry supported 1,985 jobs and created $276.1 million in value-added to the state's economy (Decision Innovation Solutions, 2016).
Missouri's milk production per cow tends to be low when compared to other U.S. states. An average U.S. dairy cow produced 23,149 pounds in 2018 as compared to Missouri's average of 14,386 pounds. A common explanation for this Missouri 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.