Masters Theses

Orcid ID

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science


Animal Science

Major Professor

Elizabeth A. Eckelkamp

Committee Members

Janice L. Edwards, Liesel G. Schneider


The objective of this study was to describe the current state of Tennessee (TN) dairy operations. Our sub-objective was to identify barriers to profitability and permanency of dairies in TN. A survey was distributed electronically and by mail in August 2019. Data were collected on producers’ farm demographics, milk market perceptions, records and management, infrastructure, stress and concerns, profitability perceptions, and farm future. Ninety surveys (46% response rate) were returned and used in the analyses. Association of producers’ plan (stay or exit between 2020 to 2025) and years profitable (more profitable: 3 to 5 years or less profitable: ≤ 2 years from 2014 to 2019) were tested against farm demographics, records and management, infrastructure, and stress and concerns group variables. The FREQ procedure with a chi-square analysis (SAS 9.4; α < 0.10) was used to determine the association. The LOGISTIC procedure (SAS 9.4) was used to test variables associated with producers’ plan and years profitable with significance set at α < 0.10. Mean ± SD dairy herd size was 250 ± 356 in TN with mean milk production of 26 ± 6 kg per day per cow and 4.4 ± 0.5 bulk tank somatic cell score (BTSCS). Most dairies (72%; n = 65) had non-family employees and marketed milk through cooperatives (50%; n = 45), but preferred direct plant contracts to market their milk (56%; n = 49). Increased non-family and total employee numbers, decreased BTSCS, comparison to industry standards, and investment in dry cow housing increased the odds of being profitable more years. Dairies with decreased non-family and total employee numbers, herd size ≤ 126 cows, written financial records, investment in financial consulting, and no planned infrastructure improvements had higher odds of vi exiting the industry. Identifying BTSCS risks, promoting the importance of financial record keeping and financial consulting, and making targeted farm infrastructure improvements could improve profitability and permanency of TN dairy operations.

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