Pennsylvania Dairy: A Valuable Industry

June 6, 2022

The rolling hills of Pennsylvania are often dotted with cows out to pasture. According to the Center for Dairy Excellence, Pennsylvania is ranked 8th in milk production nationally, with the Commonwealth’s 474,000 cows producing more than 10.1 billion pounds of milk annually. Pennsylvania ranks second in the nation for the number of dairy farms with 5,200 dairy farms.

black and white cows in a field

Of these farms, 99% of them are family-owned with the vast majority being multi-generational businesses. The average herd size in Pennsylvania is 91 cows.

Interesting Facts About Dairy

In today’s world, most people have not been to a dairy farm and therefore know very little about these versatile and important animals. Here are a few facts that might surprise you:

  • Cows are said to have four stomachs – in reality, they have one stomach with four compartments! This is very different from humans and allows cows to digest and convert plants in a way that humans cannot and then turn this into nutritious milk.
  • Milking cows eat about 100 pounds of feed daily. A cow’s diet usually consists of grass, grain and other ingredients like citrus pulp, almond hulls and cotton seeds. Farmers utilize nutritionists to ensure they are being fed a well-balanced and science-formulated diet.
  • Thanks to the amazing dairy cow and the stewardship of dairy farmers, the environmental footprint of milk production got significantly smaller between 2007 and 2017. A study found that dairies used 30% less water, 21% less land and left a 19% percent smaller carbon footprint while producing 20% less manure.
  • Holstein cows tend to be the go-to visual for a dairy cow but did you know there are six main breeds of dairy cows? In addition to Holsteins, don’t forget Ayrshire, Brown Swiss, Guernsey, Jersey and Milking Shorthorn. And, if you count red and white Holsteins as a separate category, we have seven different breeds of milking cows.
  • Cows weigh a ton – literally. The average Holstein weighs about 1,500 pounds – or nearly a ton. The size of a cow depends on her age, breed and many other factors but typically varies from 1,000 to 1,800 pounds.
  • Cows typically produce 7 to 9 gallons of milk daily. Think about it – that’s 128 glasses of cold, yummy, vitamin-packed goodness.
  • Cows are cool – or at least, they want to be cool. Dairy cows like it between 40F and 65F. In places like Pennsylvania where the climate varies, farmers must ensure cows are cool enough in the summer months with misters and fans and provide shelter during winter months to help cows stay warm.

Dairy Industry Integral to Nicholas Meat’s Success

At Nicholas Meat, the dairy industry is very important to us. Not only do we love a good cold glass of milk or cheese on top of our pizza, but we also rely on the industry to provide us with beef on a regular basis. According to the National Beef Checkoff, dairy represents approximately 20 percent of the total U.S. beef supply.

Currently, our daily beef supply is about 70% dairy cows and bulls and 30% is beef cattle. This means we rely heavily on the region’s dairy industry to help us in turn supply nutritious, wholesome beef to the world. And, did you know that Pennsylvania is now the 8th largest state in the union for commercial cattle processing? This attracts cattle from throughout the Northeast, Midwest and South, so Nicholas Meat consequently has convenient access to large quantities of cattle in seven other states beyond Pennsylvania.

In short, no matter how you look at it, the dairy industry is important to the beef industry as a whole and in turn, to Nicholas Meat. We thank all dairy farmers that choose to bring their cull animals to our facilities and appreciate their patronage.