Madison — Dairy farms in eight Wisconsin counties produced at least one billion pounds of milk during 2015, according to the annual Wisconsin Agricultural Statistics report issued by the state's office of the National Agricultural Statistics Service.

Those counties accounted for 36 percent of the state's record high of 29.03 billion pounds of milk production during 2015. That was an increase of 4.4 percent from the previous record set in 2014. For the year, the state had an average of 1.279 million dairy cows (up by 8,000 from 2014) who produced an average of 22,697 pounds of milk.

While five counties in Wisconsin's east central agricultural statistics district placed among the top eight, Clark County held onto the lead among the state's counties with a 2015 total of 1.4766 billion pounds of milk. It was produced on a average of 21,400 pounds of milk from 69,000 cows on 861 licensed dairy farms in the county.

Shifting among counties

Fond du Lac County nudged into 2nd place in the county totals with 1.4573 billion pounds of milk from 59,000 cows with an average of 24,700 pounds of milk on 252 dairy farms. With a 7 percent increase from 2014, Dane County jumped by two spots into 3rd place among the counties with 2015 numbers of 1.4465 billion pounds of milk, 55,000 cows, an average of 26,300 pounds of milk per cow, and 260 dairy farms.

Dropping from 2nd place in 2014 to 4th place on the list for 2015, Manitowoc County's total was 1.4364 billion pounds of milk from 54,000 cows with an average of 26,600 pounds of milk on 227 farms. Marathon County posted a 2015 total of 1.2932 billion pounds of milk from 571 farms with 61,000 cows and an average of 21,200 pounds of milk per cow.

On its 166 dairy farms, Brown County followed with 1.2194 billion pounds of milk from 45,500 cows with an average of 26,800 pounds of milk per cow, which was the 2nd highest average in the state. From its equal number of 45,500 cows on 167 farms, neighboring Kewaunee County had a 2015 milk production of 1.15115 billion pounds for an average of 25,300 pounds of milk per cow.

Topping 1 billion pounds for the first time, Outagamie County produced a total of 1.00875 billion pounds of milk in 2015. Its 37,500 cows on 190 dairy farms posted the state's top average of 26,900 pounds of milk per cow. In 2014, Brown County's 26,400 pounds of milk per cow was the top average, followed by Outagamie County's 26,300 pounds.

State herd totals

As of April 1, 2016, Wisconsin had 8,413 dairy herds licensed for Grade A milk and 1,188 for Grade B for a total of 9,601. By August of 2016, that number had dropped to 9,470.

While dairy cow herd numbers were steadily declining, Wisconsin is seeing a continual increase in milk goat and sheep herds. That number had jumped from 214 as recently as January of 2015 to 341 by August of 2016.

Milk testing data

The annual statistical report also included data for the dairy herds affiliated with Dairy Herd Improvement production testing. The 3,199 herds enrolled in DHI accounted for nearly 34 percent of the licensed dairy herds as of August 2016 but there are also other production testing entities operating in the state.

Among the top 10 milk production counties, Clark also led the way with 224 DHI members. Other county totals were 178 for Marathon, 156 for Dane, 155 for Grant, 142 for Dodge, 122 for Manitowoc, 109 for Fond du Lac, and 67 for Brown. The relatively DHI low totals of 21 and 14 for Kewaunee and Outagamie counties respectively reflect the strong presence of other testing organizations there.

Dairy breed breakouts

In the 2,878 Holstein breed herds on DHI testing, per cow production averages for 2015 included 26,207 pounds of milk, 982 pounds of butterfat, and 806 pounds of protein. The 163 Jersey herds had per cow averages of 17,754 pounds of milk, 889 butterfat pounds (5.01 average percentage), and 651 protein pounds (3.67 percent).

For other breeds on DHI test, there were 80 Brown Swiss herds with per cow averages of 20,453 pounds of milk, 861 pounds butterfat (4.21 percent), and 691 pounds protein (3.41 percent). The 34 Guernsey herds had per cow averages of 17,812 pounds of milk, 811 pounds butterfat (4.55 percent), and 604 pounds protein (3.39 percent).

The DHI's 24 Ayrshire herds posted per cow averages of 17,551 pounds of milk, 690 pounds of butterfat, and 553 pounds protein. Fourteen Milking Shorthorn herds had per cow averages of 14,779 pounds of milk, 572 pounds butterfat, and 464 pounds protein. The 6 Red and White Holstein herds had per cow averages of 19,832 pounds of milk, 775 pounds butterfat, and 611 pounds butterfat.

For 2015, the average milk price in Wisconsin was $17.80 per hundred. This was well below the $24.50 average for 2014 and the lowest since the $16.10 average in 2010.

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