The USDA offers a timeline for the transformation of the dairy industry.
Below is a condensed version of that timeline, emphasis added.
This explains how dairy farming went from idyllic pastures and barns to horrific factories:
- Artificial insemination takes hold and transforms the industry.
- Change from local bottlers to large, regional processors. Dairy co-ops consolidated.
- Nearly half of the dairy farms lost.
- Large dairy cooperatives rise in political influence.
- Numbers of dairy farms with fewer than 20 cows reduced to 33%.
- E. coli and BSE outbreaks receive front page attention – heightened awareness of food safety.
- Large (300-500 cow) operations start cropping up regularly …”labor and capital separate from management” & ” efficiencies of size and scale”.
- Product market change – Fluid-milk prices no longer drive the industry. Cheese markets now control 90% of the Basic Formula Price, – the price driver for the industry.
- Market structure change – improved interstate highway system and consolidation of milk buyers has led to “WalMart syndrome” of buying.
- Number of dairy cows in the US declined about 40% from 1959 – 90, while milk production in this time period doubled. [This means dairy cows worked twice as hard.]
Trends & Issues
- More educated consumers aware of potential problems associated with drugs, and toxic substances in the milk, and with the use of growth hormones.
- Larger human population with suppressed immune systems (due to increased age, drugs, disease) – increased risk of serious complications associated with food-borne disease.
- Concern for healthy food – consumption of dairy products (total) has been stable since 1970 but the specific product has changed, with consumption of cheese products increasing rapidly.
- Milk consumption has decreased in the past twenty years, and may continue to decline. If milk is perceived to be unsafe due to zoonotic infections, chemicals, drugs, etc, they may drink even less.
- Increased public awareness of how much agricultural policies cost – increasingly criticized for favoring a small segment of the population.
- As developing countries become more prosperous, demand for western diet increases.
- Johne’s disease – NAHMS Dairy Study in 1996 found that about 22% of US dairies are infected with Mycobacterium paratuberculosis.
- There are similar concerns, with regards to export potential of the U.S. dairy industry, with other infections, such as bovine leukosis.
- Although pasteurization kills many bacteria, some of the problem with zoonotic diseases may be due to fecal contamination either at slaughter, or by spillage into ground water supplies, by contact with live animals.
- Urban sprawl – the effect of having non-farming neighbors. Complaints about odors, debris on highways, etc.
- Environmental issues – spillage from manure ponds into nearby streams, surface or ground water contamination from fertilizers, use of limited water resources.
- Animal welfare – There is some concern with large, dry lot dairies, and conditions which cause animals to become recumbent – ie lameness, metabolic diseases.
See the USDA document for the complete timeline and the references: http://www.aphis.usda.gov/animal_health/emergingissues/downloads/1dairyca.pdf
For more information about dairy, please visit the MFA website on dairy >>