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Small U.S. Dairy Farms: Can They Compete?


  • Gillespie, Jeffrey M.
  • Nehring, Richard F.
  • Sandretto, Carmen L.
  • Hallahan, Charles B.


The U.S. dairy industry is undergoing rapid structural change, evolving from a structure including many small farmers in the Upper Midwest and Northeast to one that includes very large farms in new production regions. Small farms are struggling to retain competitiveness via improved management and low-input systems. Using data from USDA’s Agricultural Resource Management Survey, we determine the extent of U.S. conventional and pasture-based milk production during 2003-2007, and estimate net returns, scale efficiency, and technical efficiency associated with the systems across different operation sizes. We compare the financial performance of small conventional and pasture-based producers with one another and with largescale producers. A stochastic production frontier is used to analyze performance over the period for conventional and pasture technologies identified using a binomial logit model. Large conventional farms generally outperformed smaller farms using most economic measures – technical efficiency, various profitability measures, and returns to scale.

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  • Gillespie, Jeffrey M. & Nehring, Richard F. & Sandretto, Carmen L. & Hallahan, Charles B., 2009. "Small U.S. Dairy Farms: Can They Compete?," 111th Seminar, June 26-27, 2009, Canterbury, UK 52869, European Association of Agricultural Economists.
  • Handle: RePEc:ags:eaa111:52869

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Tauer, Loren W. & Mishra, Ashok K., 2006. "Can the small dairy farm remain competitive in US agriculture?," Food Policy, Elsevier, vol. 31(5), pages 458-468, October.
    2. Parikh, A & Edwards, R, 1980. "Structural Analysis and Forecasts of Commodity Imports Using Cross-Section Relationships," Empirical Economics, Springer, vol. 5(2), pages 109-127.
    3. Battese, G E & Coelli, T J, 1995. "A Model for Technical Inefficiency Effects in a Stochastic Frontier Production Function for Panel Data," Empirical Economics, Springer, vol. 20(2), pages 325-332.
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    Cited by:

    1. D’Antoni, Jeremy M. & Mishra, Ashok K. & Blayney, Donald, 2013. "Assessing participation in the Milk Income Loss Contract program and its impact on milk production," Journal of Policy Modeling, Elsevier, vol. 35(2), pages 243-254.
    2. Nehring, Richard & Gillespie, Jeffrey & Hallahan, Charles & Sauer, Johannes, 2015. "The Economics and Productivity of Organic versus Non-organic U.S. Dairy Farms," 2015 Annual Meeting, January 31-February 3, 2015, Atlanta, Georgia 196805, Southern Agricultural Economics Association.
    3. Sabine Duvaleix-Tréguer & Carl Gaigné, 2016. "On the nature and magnitude of cost economies in hog production," Agricultural Economics, International Association of Agricultural Economists, vol. 47(4), pages 465-476, July.
    4. Nehring, Richard F. & Sauer, Johannes & Gillespie, Jeffrey M. & Hallahan, Charles B., 2011. "Intensive versus Extensive Dairy Production Systems: Dairy States in the Eastern and Midwestern U.S. and Key Pasture Countries the E.U.: Determining the Competitive Edge," 2011 Annual Meeting, February 5-8, 2011, Corpus Christi, Texas 98824, Southern Agricultural Economics Association.
    5. Nehring, Richard F. & Gillespie, Jeffrey M. & Hallahan, Charles B. & Sauer, Johannes, 2012. "Economic Efficiency of U.S. Organic Versus Conventional Dairy Farms: Evidence from 2005 and 2010," 2012 Annual Meeting, February 4-7, 2012, Birmingham, Alabama 119769, Southern Agricultural Economics Association.

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    Pasture-based system; technical efficiency; returns to scale; dairy; Livestock Production/Industries; Productivity Analysis;

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