As printed in our March 25, 2015 issue...

USDA INCHED DOWN its 2015 All-Milk price forecast to a $17.35 midpoint in March. That was 40 cents lower than one month ago and down $2.85 per hundredweight compared to last May's forecast for this year. April to December Class III future contracts averaged $16.50.

A STRONG DOLLAR HAS WEAKENED U.S. dairy exports. In January, international sales were off 31 percent on both a volume and dollar basis. U.S. exports had been 15 percent of annual production. In January, sales were closer to 11 percent. Imports were 3.4 percent.

DAIRY EXPORTS HAVE BEEN IN A CONSTANT FLUX. Even so, dairy markets can sustain 2 percent growth through 2020 with most sales coming from emerging markets, said Rabobank's Tim Hunt. To meet growth, the world will "need another New Zealand or California by 2020."

CHINA IMPORTED THE EQUIVALENT of Indiana's milk production in 2007. By early 2014, China purchased the milk equivalent from eight states: Idaho (ranked No. 3 in milk output); Washington (10); Indiana (14); Colorado (15); Kansas (16), Oregon (18); Florida (19) and Tennessee (30).

HIGH HAY AND CORN SILAGE PRICES have kept California milk production and cow numbers at bay, said Seth Hoyt, editor of the Hoyt Report. Most corn silage brought $65 per ton on a standing basis in California last fall. By comparison, corn silage cost only $35 to $40 per ton in Idaho.

ALFALFA HAS BROUGHT $150 MORE PER TON delivered to central California dairies than rolled corn, said Hoyt, noting that this was a new occurrence. As a result, alfalfa hay feeding rates have fallen 4.5 pounds per head when compared to the 12.5-pound rate in 2004.

CATTLE MARKETS CONTINUED TO RUN HOT as ground beef reached an all-time record high of $4.33 per pound in January. That was good news for those culling dairy cows, as ground beef accounted for 62 percent of all beef sales in the United States in 2013.

CLASS I OR FLUID USE across federal orders held steady at 32 percent last year. Class II (yogurt and soft products) was 11 percent (down 1 percent from 2013); Class III (cheese), 45 percent (down 2 percent); and Class IV (butter and dried products), 12 percent (up 3 percent).

CANADIAN HEIFER INVENTORY (1 year or older) was 444,600 in January, which was flat compared to 2013 and off 4.6 percent from five years ago.

THERE WERE 4.62 MILLION HEIFERS in the U.S. (over 500 pounds) this January, up 1.5 percent from both last year and five years ago. Cow counts: 9.31 million in the U.S.; 956,700 in Canada.

THERE WAS $326,000 AVAILABLE in Livestock Gross Margin dairy funds. An alternative to the Margin Protection Program (MPP-Dairy), farmers can participate in one or the other, but not both.

Click here to see the previous months Washington Dairygrams