Got Milk? Pennsylvania Does!

Posted: January 21, 2008

Extension Weekly News Article For week of: June 17th, 2007
Contact: Robert C. Goodling, Jr.
Extension Educator, Dairy

Just in case you haven’t heard, June is National Dairy Month. During this time, there are different promotions and activities going on to celebrate this vital part of U.S. agriculture. To some, it is a reminder of an agricultural business or a family lifestyle (past or present), others view it as a good reminder to get their “3 a day”, or maybe it’s just a “good excuse” to indulge in a bowl of ice cream. However it is viewed, National Dairy Month should also remind us why the dairy industry is not only important to the U.S., but also Pennsylvania. Many sectors of our local communities benefit from having thriving and successful dairy operations.

According to the 2006 National Agricultural Statistics Service, Pennsylvania is the 5th largest milk producer in the U.S. (state totals exceeded 10 billion pounds of milk last year). This equates to over 1.2 billion gallons of milk, all coming from a mere half a million cows! Other top five states include California, Wisconsin, New York, and Idaho. These top five states accounted for 53% of all the milk produced in the U.S. in 2006. Within Pennsylvania, the bulk of milk production is right here in the Capital Region. So let’s take a look at Adams, Berks, Chester, Cumberland, Dauphin, Franklin, Fulton, Lancaster, Lebanon, Perry and York to see just how much dairy is in our backyards.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Lancaster County ranked # 1 (of the 56 Pennsylvania counties that reported dairy sales) in 2006 for total milk production and number of milk cows in Pennsylvania. Of the top ten counties for total milk production

(which account for 55% of Pennsylvania’s 10 billion pounds of milk), six of them are in the Capital Region. Lebanon County ranks # 1 in the state for milk per cow, with the average cow producing 23,000 lbs, or 2700 gallons, of milk in 2006. In fact, 9 of the top 10 counties for milk per cow are here in the Capital Region. It’s important to understand that all this milk does not stay within Pennsylvania borders. A lot of our milk is exported to surrounding states for processing into dairy products like cheese, yogurt, powdered milk, butter, and my favorite, ice cream.

Some people may be wondering how a dairy affects the average community. To give you an idea of just how much we’re talking about, according to Pennsylvania Dairy Task Force Economic Development Committee, an average 100 cow dairy in 2004 would have cash receipts of roughly $270,000 in a given year, but the direct and indirect revenue from that dairy to the local community would be over $663,000. That is a big part of not only the local community’s economy, but for all of Pennsylvania (about 40% of Pennsylvania’s total revenue). How a dairy effects the average community may be best answered by thinking about what services a typical dairy operation may utilize.

The most obvious would be the crops and feedstuffs needed to feed the cows. Dairies would work with local nutritionists and feed mills, as well as produce their own crops, to ensure cows have the nutrients they need for growth, maintenance, and milk production. Another service would be the labor needed for the dairy. Milking, feeding, cropping, and other daily chores require numerous work hours to get everything done, and usually means hired help of some fashion. In order to produce the crops, feed and milk the cows, equipment and machinery will be required which is yet another community sector impacted by a dairy operation. And let’s not forget that milk will need

to be processed locally, or at least shipped to a processing plant to be made into one of a variety of milk products. Other services a dairy may use include, but are not limited to, veterinarians, breeding technicians, milk testers, milk haulers, accountants, and others. The dairy is also important to the banking and tax base of the community as well.

Dairy plays a vital role in the success of Pennsylvania and its local communities, especially here in the Capital Region. It is important to remember that even though you may not have direct ties to the dairy industry, there are indirect ties which make dairy important to everyone. So if you happen to be a dairy producer, work in the dairy industry, or even if you enjoy a glass of milk or bowl of ice cream, relish the fact that the Capital Region and the rest of Pennsylvania can be proud of the efforts and impact its dairy industry has.

Rob Goodling is the Penn State Cooperative Extension Educator for Dairy/Livestock, Farm & Data Management serving the Capital Region. Penn State is committed to affirmative action, equal opportunity, and the diversity of its workforce. Penn State Extension in Lebanon County is located at 2120 Cornwall Road, Suite 1, Lebanon PA 17042, phone 717-270-4391, e-mail