The State That Produces The Most Milk

Is there anything better than a cold glass of milk with a warm brownie or fresh-baked chocolate chip cookie for a sweet treat? Milk not only pairs well with lots of foods, like cereal and smoothies, but it's also a great source of calcium, vitamin D, and protein, according to Harvard Health. These nutrients are good for maintaining bone health and muscle mass. Adults need 1,000 milligrams of calcium a day, and one cup of milk has around 250 to 350 milligrams of calcium, so having a regular glass of milk can help keep you healthy.

But even with its known benefits, milk sales are plummeting, per CNN, as more and more people are cutting out milk due to its high calories and fat content, or they are forgoing animal milk altogether and turning to plant-based options. With this drop in sales, the country's largest milk-producing state may see a decline in profits. But which state produces the most milk?

California has a lot of cows

The answer to that may surprise you. Perhaps you would have guessed big farming states, like Texas or Pennsylvania, would lead in milk production. The answer, though, is actually California. Statista reports that the Golden State leads the country in the number of milk cows, with more than 1.7 million dairy cows as of 2021. That's a lot of cows to feed. Because of having so many cows, California is also the top milk-producing state, generating around 20% of the nation's milk supply.

The Los Angeles Times reports that California lost 160,000 dairy cows in a 14-year span, dropping from 1.88 million dairy cows to around 1.72 million, but Civil Eats states that, even with this drop, the industry brought in $7.5 billion in 2020. Real California Milk claims that California has 1,100 dairy farms, and 99% of those are family owned. Tulare County is the largest dairy-producing county in both California and in the nation, boasting more than 450,000 dairy cows.

Other states that produce a lot of milk

For perspective, coming in behind California for the most milk production is Wisconsin, Idaho, Texas, and New York, respectfully, according to Beef 2 Live. And Wisconsin Dairy states that Wisconsin has 1.27 million milk cows and produces 2.44 billion pounds of milk per month. According to Idaho's Department of Agriculture, the state produced over 14 billion pounds of milk in 2015.

Texas, which has the most beef cows in the country, produces over 4 billion pounds of milk each year, and they have around 634,000 milk cows in the state, according to the Texas Farm Bureau. And the New York Department of Agriculture reports that New York State has over 625,000 milk cows that produce more than 15 billion pounds of milk each year. 

That's a whole lot of milk to use in your cereal, in various recipes, and in some yummy hot chocolate, but the dairy industry does more than just provide milk. According to the International Dairy Foods Association, the U.S. dairy industry supports 3.3 million jobs and generates $67.1 billion in federal, state, and local taxes, annually.