Average milk production at local dairies on the increase

By BRUCE ALSOBROOK, News-Telegram Managing Editor

August 1, 2008 - Hopkins County ranked fifth in the state last month in total milk production, according to the latest statistics compiled by the federal milk market administrator's office in Carrollton.

But the real news is the amount of milk that each farm in the county is producing. Local dairies are producing close to twice as much as each farm did in the mid 1990s and some 40 percent more than at the turn of this century.

Twenty years ago Hopkins County was the undisputed king of the dairy industry in Texas, with reports of as many as 700 family farms at one time consistently producing more milk than any other county in the state.

But the rise of massive corporate dairies in Erath County led the Stephenville area to wrest the milk production title away in the early 1990s. Still, Hopkins County maintained a solid lock as the second-largest dairy producing county in Texas for more than 15 years.

The number of large dairies in West Texas has continued to grow this decade however, with the number of cows in the Panhandle and surrounding region seeing a reported five-fold increase over the past eight years. That resultant rise finally pushed Hopkins County down the list to the number 5 dairy producer in the state.

But Hopkins County is still the county with more farms than any other, and the production at each dairy has increased dramatically since the 1990s.

In 1995, for example, there were some 411 dairies operating in the county, many with about 100 cows, and each farm putting out an average of 192,782 pounds of milk. The average month saw about 75 million pounds of milk being produced.

Five years later, the number farms had fallen dramatically, with 211 dairies producing about 55 million pounds of month. Each dairy, however, was producing an average of 257,871 pounds of milk -- a 34 percent increase from 1995.

In June of this year, the number of dairies had fallen to 124 -- still the most in Texas -- and milk output was down to about 45 million pounds. But the per-farm average in June was 362,634 pounds, up 88 percent from 1995 and 41 percent higher than at the start of this decade.

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