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Expansion, Modernization, and Specialization in the Wisconsin Dairy Industry
Research Summaries No. 7, March 2005
by Bradford Barham, Jeremy Foltz and Ursula Aldana

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America’s Dairyland is undergoing major changes. Two well-known trends on Wisconsin dairy farms are the sharp decline in overall farm numbers and the rapid expansion of many continuing dairy operations. These trends in farm structure have been accompanied by less well documented but significant changes in the types of buildings, equipment, organization, management practices, and activities undertaken on dairy farms. While typically thought of as a large farm phenomenon, the modernization of dairy technology is happening to different extents throughout the industry on all sizes of farms. Most dramatic of late has been the growth in the number of dairy farms milking in parlors and housing their herds in freestalls, but other major changes in the organization and management of Wisconsin dairy farms have occurred, such as the increased use of intensive grazing techniques and growth in the number of organic dairy farms. It is the combination of these changes on farms that shape the Wisconsin dairy industry’s impacts and performance at the family, community, and industry levels.

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