Study To Address Declining Dairy Industry In Southeastern Region

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By Megan Crenshaw, Staff Member

The Southeastern dairy industry seems to be in big trouble. While the nation is experiencing a surge in dairy and milk demand, the Southeastern dairy industry has experienced a greater than 37 percent decline in total production of milk.[1] Since 1995 more than two-thirds of the dairies in the Southeast have closed.[2] A six-state study is in the works to reverse this trend.[3] The main focus of the study is to “pinpoint the causes of the decline in the Southeastern U.S. dairy industry.”[4] The United States Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture will fund the study for five years with a $3 million grant.[5] The University of Tennessee’s Institute Of Agriculture is the lead institution for the study.[6] “Regional participants in the study include the University of Florida, University of Georgia, University of Kentucky, Mississippi State University and Virginia Tech.”[7] A scientist in each participating state will oversee the state’s outreach and research efforts.[8]

Researchers seek to reach out to struggling dairies that are underperforming in hopes to enhance regional milk production and improve milk quality. [9] “The assistant dean of the University of Tennessee explained that the study will focus on improving herd health and milk quality and quantity by lowering the incidence of mastitis.”[10] One of the central concerns surrounding low milk quality in the southeastern regions is the high level of mastitis.[11]

“Mastitis is the inflammation of the mammary gland and udder tissue.”[12] It has been categorized as a “major endemic disease of dairy cattle.”[13] The illness is a very complex disease.[14] Typically it occurs as an “immune response to bacterial invasion of the teat canal by a variety of bacterial sources present on the farm.”[15] It can also occur as a “result of chemical, mechanical, or thermal injury to the cow's udder.”[16] “Practices such as close attention to milking hygiene, the culling of chronically-infected cows, good housing management and effective dairy cattle nutrition to promote good cow health are essential in helping to control herd mastitis levels.”[17]

Researchers will work to identify factors that affect regional farmer’s inability to adopt practices to control mastitis.[18] They will conduct research aimed at strategies to solve this issue and work to develop continuing education programs for those working within the dairy industry.[19] Researchers are hopeful that this study will result in an “implementation of cost effective, science-based mastitis prevention and control strategies” that can help producers “improve quality milk, increase production and therefore improve industry profitability and sustainability.”[20]
[1] Aimee Nielson, Kentucky Dairy Farmers to Benefit from New Six-State Study on Southeast Milk Decline, KyForward (July 1, 2013),
[2] Tim Lundeen, Program to Aid Southeastern Dairies Through Herd Health, Milk Quality, Feedstufs (June 21, 2013),
[3] Id.
[4] UT Heading Dairy Study In Southeast, News Channel 5 (June 20, 2013 1:19 PM),
[5] Id.
[6] Id.
[7] Id.
[8] Patricia McDaniels, Saving Southeastern Dairies Through Improved Herd Health, Milk Quality, UT Institute of Agriculture (June 19, 3013)
[9] Nielson, supra note 1.
[10] Id.
[11] Id.
[12] Mastitis in Dairy Cows, DAIRYCO.ORG, (last visited July 4, 2013).
[13] Id.
[14] Id.
[15] Id.
[16] Id.
[17] Id.
[18] Nielson, supra note 1.
[19] Id.
[20] McDaniels, supra note 8.