Eric Lyon stands in a massive dairy barn in eastern Iowa that until recently held about 320 cows.

The third-generation Iowa dairy farmer began selling off his family's purebred Jersey herd a year ago, ending 95 years of milking. 

He no longer could wait for relief from a punishing downturn that has hit America's dairy industry.

Luckily, the Lyon family is financially able to shift to raising beef cattle after four years of fighting to keep "our heads above water," he said.

Tumbling commodity prices and high production costs have hit several ag sectors over the past five years. But they have landed especially hard on dairy producers.

The industry has faced losses since hitting highs in 2014, forcing some dairy producers out through foreclosure. Others have thrown in the towel voluntarily, unwilling to wipe out what's left of their assets, experts say. Dairy producers are leaving the industry at about twice the average annual rate, experts say.

Wisconsin, the nation's second-largest milk producer with 8,304 farms, had 634 fewer dairy farms in October than a year ago, data shows. Over the past two years, the state has lost a total of 1,100 dairies. Iowa, the nation's 10th-largest milk producer with 1,150 dairy farms, has lost about 80 this year.

Read more in USA Today.