From the Ground Up - Changes in the Texas Dairy Industry

The Texas Dairy Industry has grown tremendously over the last several years, but with that growth has also come major changes. Michael Tomaszewski is a visiting professor and professor emeritus of dairy science in Texas A&M’s Department of Animal Science.

“We had twenty eight hundred and ninety producers in 1975 producing about three billion pounds of milk in Texas. Central and East Texas were where all of our production was located. So we go to 2000. We’ve got eleven hundred producers, and we’re producing about five billion pounds of milk.”

Tomaszewski says that Texas dairy producer numbers today are fifteen per cent of what they were forty years ago.

“Texas now has four hundred and thirty six producers, producing over ten billion pounds of milk. So in the span of forty years, basically we’ve gone from three billion pounds of milk in Texas with twenty eight hundred producers, to four hundred and forty producers in Texas, producing over ten billion pounds of milk.”

Tomaszewski noted that Texas dairies have also changed their locations.

“Eight of the top ten counties are now in the panhandle, where ten years ago, nobody was out there, and so we’ve just seen a tremendous change in our production system within Texas. Likewise, with the number of herds, we’ve seen a decrease in the number of herds. Our number of cows has increased. Texas is now the sixth largest dairy state in the nation.”

The drivers behind the relocation have been two big cheese plants, one near the Texas border in Portales, New Mexico, and the other in Dalhart.
“Those two plants take about four hundred and fifty tankers a day. It takes about two hundred and fifty to three hundred thousand dairy cows to produce the milk on a daily basis to keep those plants operating.”
Tomaszewski says dairies have been forced to get bigger.

“Producers have been faced with increased costs, decreased prices, things such as this, so the only way in which producers have been able to remain profitable, I hate to say this but it’s been by primarily increasing the size of their operation because there’s efficiency of scale.”