June is Dairy Month: Dairy industry has large economic impact locally

June is dairy month and the dairy industry has a big economic impact in Iowa and, more specifically, Allamakee County. According to the 2012 Iowa State University Economic Review, Iowa’s dairy industry is the fifth largest sector of Iowa agriculture.  While herd size and location within the state have shifted substantially over time, the positive economic impact of this industry has remained valuable.
The 2012 Census of Agriculture shows that there are an estimated 204,000 cows being milked in Iowa. There are approximately 12,000 milk cows in Allamakee County, which is almost 6% of the state’s total. According to the USDA-FSA, there are at least 90 dairy farms in the county. One dairy cow generates an estimated $23,445 in total economic impact and value to a community. The dairy industry in Iowa generates $4.9 billion dollars of economic activity per year.  Some of the impact is in agricultural businesses such as vet clinics, milk haulers, farm workers, etc., but there are also impacts outside of traditional agriculture including restaurants, repair shops, and equipment dealers. The dairy industry also provides many jobs in the state with an estimated 10 jobs created for every 100 cows.  
According to information from the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship (IDALS), Iowa had 1801 dairy herds in 2013 (1580 dairy cow, 219 dairy goat, and 2 sheep). The 204,000 milk cows in these herds produce 4.5 billion pounds of milk a year. Iowa is ranked 12th nationally for milk production and cow numbers and 10th nationally for milk produced per cow per year.  Iowa ranks 8th in total dairy products processed, 7th in cheese production, and 4th in ice-cream production. In recent years, fluid milk consumption has declined while cheese consumption has increased more than 100 percent. Iowa has more than 12 dairy processing facilities producing dairy products or high-value specialty ingredients for other industries, two of which are in Allamakee County.  
Dairy farms play an important role in conservation in Allamakee County because more acres are kept in hay and pasture to support the cattle. Well-managed pasture and hay help protect soil from eroding. As the number of dairy farms decrease, hay and pasture acres also decrease as they are converted to continuous row-crop production. Much of the ground in Allamakee County is steep and usually has lower erosion rates if left in pasture or farmed with hay in the rotation.
The Allamakee County NRCS/SWCD office can assist dairy farmers with cost-share and loans for practices as well as general information regarding conservation. For more information, stop by the office at 635 9th St. NW or call 563-568-2246 ext. 3.