Kentucky’s Dairy Industry
In 2017, Kentucky’s 57,000 milk cows produced 122 million gallons of milk.
Kentucky dairy farmers made $195.6 million from the sale of dairy products including milk.
Kentucky was home to about 57,000 milk cows on 630 dairy farms, with the average herd size being 92 milking cows.
Kentucky’s dairy cows, on average, produced 6.9 gallons of milk each day. This meant each Kentucky dairy cow was producing enough milk to make 2.8 pounds of butter of 5.9 pounds of cheese! The average value of a day's milk was $9.75 per cow during 2016.
Kentucky milk is also processed locally; Kentucky has 6 commercial milk processing plants, 3 commercial cheese processing plants, a specialty ice-cream plant, 1 on-farm milk bottling plant, and 6 on-farm cheese makers.
The top dairy cattle counties in the state:
Source: National Agriculture Statistics Service and Economic Research Commission
Dairy farming is a fulfilling way of life, but according to H.H. Barlow, without strong business practices the full potential may not be realized. Barlow is a second-generation dairy farmer from Kentucky. He grew up on a dairy farm and paid his way through college milking cows at the University of Kentucky's research farm.
Douglas Barbour and wife, Maggie, inherited their family farm from his parents in the early 1970s. Today, Douglas and Maggie milk 45 cows on 150 acres of land, with an additional 30 young heifers that will soon move into milk production.
With a degree in agricultural sciences and business management, Terry Rowlett had several career opportunities available to him after he graduated from Eastern Kentucky University and served in the U.S. Army. None, however, equaled the opportunity to follow the path laid out by his father, who had operated a dairy farm most of his life.
Hard work, determination and family are the keys to running a successful dairy farm. Jonathan Gaskins opened his own dairy farm in 2005. It took him a couple years to build up his herd to begin producing milk, but now Gaskins milks around 160 cows on 500 acres of land in central Kentucky.
Take a Virtual Field Trip to Learn about Dairy Farming in Kentucky
Denise Jones gives us a tour of her family's dairy farm - Coleman Crest Dairy - in Loretto, Ky. and tells us how they care for their cattle and collect their milk for us to enjoy. Then we go to Bowling Green to visit Chaney's Dairy Barn, where the Chaney family uses their cow's milk to make ice cream.