To commemorate the rich history of dairy farming and importance of dairy products in the U.S., National Dairy Month is celebrated each June.
What started in 1937 as “National Milk Month,” a marketing strategy used by grocers to sell more milk in summer months, National Dairy Month was first observed in June 1939. Now in its 82nd year, it is about promoting the dietary importance of milk and other dairy products.
Dairy products are high in calcium, potassium and vitamin D, and can help prevent heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes. The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends consuming three daily servings of dairy, including milk, cheese, yogurt or any other dairy product.
While a normal National Dairy Month celebration would include local dairy farms opening their doors for visitors to take part in agritourism activities, it’s unlikely such events will take place in 2020.
Still, there’s opportunity to thank dairy farmers for their contributions. Purchasing and consuming the recommended servings of dairy will help farmers continue to find markets for their products during unforeseen circumstances caused by COVID-19.
Virginia’s dairy industry
In Virginia, dairy farms are among the most robust producers in the state. In 2018, dairy products accounted for approximately $284 million in cash receipts, making dairy Virginia’s fourth-largest agricultural commodity.
According to statistics published by the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service in 2018, there were 565 dairy farms in Virginia and approximately 83,000 dairy cows. The total amount of milk produced across the state was 190 million gallons.
Those statistics indicated Virginia ranked 13th in number of licensed dairies, 24th in number of milk cows and 24th in milk production in the U.S. Among Southeast states, Virginia had the most licensed dairies and produced the third-largest volume of milk.
The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services reports that there are just over 460 licensed dairies in Virginia today.
“Dairy farming in Virginia is a family tradition, one that has been a way of life for many generations,” said Tony Banks, senior assistant director of agriculture, development and innovation for Virginia Farm Bureau Federation.
“In many rural communities, these family-owned dairies represent generations of investment that benefit other agribusinesses and the larger community. It’s comforting for many consumers to know that milk is locally produced and readily available.”
The top five counties milk production are Rockingham, Franklin, Pittsylvania, Augusta, and Fauquier.
Here are some additional facts about Virginia’s dairy industry, courtesy of the USDA:
- An average Virginia dairy farm has a herd of 147 milking cows.
- Virginia’s dairy cows produce an average of 7.5 gallons per day and an average of 2,291 gallons each year.
- The average value of a day’s milk per cow is $10.51.
- An average dairy cow costs $1,210.
- Of all milk produced in Virginia, 84% is consumed as fluid milk.