Dairy Cattle EatingOne of the largest expansions of the U.S. dairy industry in over two decades is underway, with herd numbers rising in the first few months of 2021 at around twice the rate expected in the latter half of 2020. The expansion driven partially by federal direct payments to dairy farmers, including those during the COVID-19 pandemic, is expected to last through at least the first half of the year. But the growth may put the industry on precarious footing moving forward; recent USDA dairy production data show a massive increase in dairy output, and with cow numbers now at the highest levels in “more than 30 years,” one dairy economist said this week the growth has the industry “walking on a knife’s edge” mainly because continued profitability will depend on sustained demand fueled in part by federal dairy donations and exports, which remains strong especially as China continues rebuilding its hog herd. Any downtrends in currently strong demand could be cause for reversal in dairy herd growth. See more.