U.S. Dairy cow herd numbers increase 8,000

U.S. Dairy cow herd numbers increase by 8,000

USDA-NASS (National Agricultural Statistics Service) estimated that the U.S. milk cow herd increased by 8,000 head in April from the prior month. That was up 69,000 head from twelve months earlier, or slightly less than a 1% gain. Of the 23 leading dairy states, no state reported a decline in cow numbers from March. Texas dairy cow numbers went up the most month-over-month, increasing by 3,000 head.

During March, dairies added 17,000 cows, the biggest increase since a similar jump three years ago and the 19,000 head increase in January 2011. The slowdown in the rate of the herd increase during April was a modest surprise, but milk prices since mid-winter have declined sharply.

The All Milk Average Price at the farm reported by USDA-NASS in their monthly Agricultural Prices report dropped to $16.50 per cwt. in April, down from $18.90 in January.

Dairy product demand has been disappointing so far this year (probably a bit worse than the first quarter of last year). Fluid milk product sales, in volume terms, during the first quarter were down 2% from 2016’s. Domestic butter disappearance was down 10% and cheese usage slipped 1% year over-year. The Leap Year effect is at play here, but when production this year is up with one less day, the effect on price was predictably lower.

U.S. milk production in April was up 2.0% from a year earlier, a bit above the 1.8% increase during March. Milk cow productivity continued to post year-over-year gains with April 2017 output per cow up 24 pounds from a year earlier. In March, per cow output was up 23 pounds year-over-year.

Geographical shifts in the dairy industry are playing a role in the milk cow productivity trend. Average milk cow output nationally in April was 1,949 pounds. States with the most growth in the number of milk cows in recent months also have posted higher output per cow. Texas per cow milk output was 2,010 pounds in April. New Mexico and Colorado, states which also had slight increases in dairy cows during April, produced 2,150 and 2,165 pounds per cow, respectively.


Source: Dairy Herd Management

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