As printed in our March 10, 2015 issue...

MARGINS FELL to their lowest level since September 2013 as measured by the Milk-Feed-Price Ratio. January's 2.09 netted a $9.18 income-over-feed cost based on $17.60 milk, $3.81 corn and $10.30 soybeans.

CLASS III FUTURES rose 44 cents to a $17.06 blend for March through December contracts in February 6 to 28 trading on the CME. March's $15.69 was the low month with August, September and October all near $17.85.

STEPPED-UP DEMAND and dry conditions have combined to cause dairy product prices to rise 26 percent since January at New Zealand's Global Dairy Trade. This could be a signal that dairy prices are rebounding.

USDA WAS A BIT MORE CAUTIOUS, lowering its 2015 All-Milk price estimate to $17.75 per hundredweight. The agency's projections have fallen steadily from May's opening forecast which had a $20.20 midpoint.

DAIRY RETAINED A PROMINENT POSITION in the just-released 571-page dietary guidelines aimed at helping Americans develop healthy eating patterns. Low-fat and fat-free milk and a host of dairy products remained on the recommended list. Additionally, cholesterol was no longer listed as a big concern after decades of vilifying products with the fat.

SUSTAINABILITY ENTERED the dietary discussion for the first time. While some call the issue code word for "vegan," dairy has been ahead of other groups on science-based sustainability research. However, beef, pork and poultry have deeper concerns in this area.

THERE WAS A FURTHER DROP in pick-up tanker milk samples testing positive for antibiotics . . . 429 out of 3.15 million or 0.0136 percent. That was down from last year's 0.0139 percent and represented an all-time low.

SOMATIC CELL COUNTS HELD STEADY near 200 for the third straight year based on a 2014 analysis of national DHI records. Previously, SCC had dropped steadily from 1995's 300 to 2012's 200 SCC.

IDAHO RECLAIMED THIRD PLACE among all states by producing 13.9 billion pounds of milk last year. That was nearly 0.2 billion pounds more than fourth-place New York. For more, turn to page 160.

OF THE 290 BULK TANKS CHECKED for accuracy of milk weights, 16, or 5.5 percent, were found to be out of calibration in Northeast Federal Milk Marketing Order. Those needing rebalancing were equally split between tanks over- and under-measuring milk.

BRIEFLY: Dairy cow slaughter was 5.7 percent ahead of last year's pace through February 14. Culling was strongest in the West where margins were tighter - California, Idaho, Washington, Arizona and Oregon. Some Chinese dairy farmers have been dumping milk as local processors turned to lower cost alternatives from New Zealand and elsewhere.

Click here to see the previous months Washington Dairygrams