Hopkins County third best in Texas for milk production in month of June

By BRUCE ALSOBROOK | News-Telegram Managing Editor

July 24, 2007 - Hopkins County continues to lead the state of Texas in the number of dairy farms operating within its borders, although a slight dip in output dropped the county a peg in terms of production.

In June, the county's 129 farms produced 45.79 million pounds of milk, down 6.32 percent from June of last year, but still good for third place in Texas.

Erath County continues to be the top producing county in Texas, with 94 farms outputting 96 million pounds in June. Deaf Smith was second, with a meager 13 farms and 40.35 million pounds of milk.

It was the first time this year Hopkins County did not have the second-highest milk production of any county in Texas.

The best news is that local farmers are enjoying much better prices for the milk they produce. According to the latest report by the federal milk market administrator for Texas, the average milk price is $20.17 per hundred pounds of milk, or about $8.06 more than one year ago.

While that's not what area dairymen will ultimately receive — milk pricing rules have more movable parts than your kid's Transformer collection — it's still about 50 percent more than dairy farmers were getting at this time last year.

Despite having far fewer dairy farms than a decade ago, local farmers are producing close to the same amount of milk. Increases in herd sizes combined with more efficient techniques have allowed Hopkins County dairies to basically double their output from 1997.

In June of 1997, the 318 farms operating in Hopkins County produced 56.5 million pounds of milk, or 177,673 pounds per farms. Last month, the 129 farms averaged 354,973 pounds each — basically twice the 1997 figure.

Bigger corporate-style dairies in West Texas are capable of producing much larger numbers, however. For example, Deaf Smith County's 13 dairy farms averaged more than 3.87 million pounds of milk per farm, and in  Castro County, 10 farms combined for an average of 4.2 million pounds each.

The hands-down winner, however, is Hale County, where six farms output 27.9 million pounds — an average of 4.65 million pounds per farm.

Behind Erath, Deaf Smith and Hopkins counties on the top 10 list in Texas were Parmer (12 farms, 42.8 million pounds of milk), Castro, Comanche (28 farms, 38.77 million pounds), Lamb (nine farms, 33.95 million pounds), Bailey (nine farms, 29.82 million pounds), Hale and Hartley (six farms, 24.57 million pounds) counties.

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