THE PANHANDLE – It’s likely Texas will become a top-five milk producing state in the nation this year, says Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service dairy specialist Dr. Ellen Jordan, but where that milk is produced has shifted dramatically over the past four decades.
In 1980, almost 25 percent of the state’s milk was produced in Northeast Texas.
Production in Northeast Texas rapidly declined over the next two decades as milk production moved west to the Panhandle.
The Panhandle receives around 20 inches of rainfall each year, compared to 50 inches in East Texas, which presents challenges for dairies like mud and waste management.
Higher land values and suburban sprawl also contributed to the economic decision to move west.
Dairy operations that hoped to expand needed additional space and finding contiguous parcels meant paying premium prices for land.
The Panhandle was a good option because of rainfall amounts and land availability, but it also provided a steady supply of high quality feed because of the well-established feedlot industry in the region, Jordan said.
The combination of economic, logistical and environmental factors helped the Panhandle emerge as an ideal location for dairy producers.
Since the 1980s, milk production in the region boomed from less than 1 percent to more than 68 percent in 2017.