As farm gate milk prices remain below the cost of production for the vast majority of U.S. dairy farmers, dairy replacements waiting to join the milking herd continue to be at historic highs. That indicates U.S. milk production may not slow anytime soon.
If there is a silver lining in USDA’s latest Cattle report, it’s the fact that dairy replacements expected to calve this year have dropped by 33,700 head during the past 12 months.
Replacement heifers: As of January 2018, there were an estimated 4.78 million dairy replacements on U.S. farms. That compares to 4.75 million head at the same time last year, for a difference of 27,300.
Heifers expected to calve: During the same one-year window, the number of heifers expected to calve fell by 33,700 . . . from January 2017’s 3.07 million to January 2018’s 3.04 million head.
Ratios keep climbing: Over the past decade, these numbers are pushing historic highs. When compared to the same time 10 years ago, there were 47 heifers for every 100 milk cows. That’s based on 2009’s replacement heifer population of 4.4 million and a dairy cow herd of 9.3 million.
Fast forward to 2018, and there are 51 heifers for every 100 milk cows. That’s based on this year’s replacement heifer population of 4.78 million and a dairy cow herd of 9.4 million head.