Which Country Has the Most Dairy Cows?

Globally, the dairy industry is large and valuable. In 2020, the value of the industry was 827.4 US dollars and it’s thought that there are around 270 million dairy cows across the world.

India has the largest proportion of these cows. The country is home to 58 million head of dairy cattle. The European Union (EU) has the second largest population of dairy cows globally at 20.5 million. Although, this figure covers all 27 EU nations rather than a single country.

Let’s take a closer look at these figures as well as discovering which other countries have the greatest number of dairy cows in the world.

Key points

  •       India has the most dairy cows in the world with a population of 58 million.
  •       Although it’s only fourth in the list of countries with the highest dairy cow population (including the EU as a single entity) the US is the biggest producer of milk at 663.3 billion litres annually.
  •       There are 1.4 million dairy cows in Australia.
  •       Although Australia is not one of the top milk producers in the world it’s the third highest milk exporter as it exports 50% of its total production.

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Top 10 countries in terms of head of dairy cattle

India tops the list of countries with the most head of dairy cattle in the world with China, Mexico, and Russia also featuring.




The table below includes the details of this list showing how many million head of cattle there are in each country.

Country (or group of countries) Head of dairy cattle in millions
India 58
European Union 20.5
Brazil 16.6
United States of America 9.4
Mexico 6.6
Russia 6.5
China 6.2
New Zealand 4.9
United Kingdom 1.8
Ukraine 1.7


Statistically, the dairy industry in the EU is often regarded as a single entity. For insight into how individual countries fit into the global picture of dairy cow numbers, it’s interesting to look at the countries with the highest dairy cattle numbers.

These countries are Germany and France with 3.9 and 3.4 head of dairy cattle respectively. As can be seen from the table above, they would feature at nine and ten respectively.


Top milk producing countries in the world

Having the highest number of dairy cattle does not necessarily directly relate to being the biggest producer of milk. In fact, according to figures for 2018, the USA was the biggest producer of milk in the world with a total production of 663.3 billion litres. The next two highest producers of milk were India followed by Brazil.



The average productivity for dairy cows globally in 2018 was approximately 2,500 litres per cow per year. The US had the highest productivity level of 10,200 litres per cow per year. It’s this high level of productivity that has led to the country being the highest milk producer in the global dairy sector.

Dairy cows and production in Australia

Australia has a relatively small population of dairy cows. You can see from the table earlier in this article that it does not feature in the top 10. This means that the country does not have high milk production levels. However, Australia is the third highest exporter of milk in the world as it exports around 50% of the milk it produces.

The dairy industry is the third largest rural industry in Australia, behind wheat and beef. There are around 1.4 million dairy cows in the country split across approximately 5,800 dairy farms. The total milk production level from these cows is approximately nine billion litres annually.

The average yield for dairy cattle in Australia increased from 2,900 litres per cow per year in 1980 to 6,170 litres per cow per year in 2019-20. This is significantly higher than the global average and is set to improve further due to ongoing advances in herd genetics, pasture management, and supplementary feeding.


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