As printed in our February 25, 2018 issue . . .

A $16.05 ALL-MILK PRICE FOR 2018, with a $15.70 to $16.40 range, has been pegged by USDA economists in World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates. That’s off $1.20 from November’s $17.35 projection.

THAT FORECAST MAY BE TOO OPTIMISTIC, suggested other dairy market analysts. A $15.40 per hundredweight price may prevail in the U.S., suggested Rabobank’s Tom Bailey at IDFA’s Dairy Forum.

CLASS III FUTURE CONTRACTS for March through August aver- aged $14.40 with March the low at $13.61 and August the high at $15.45. During the fourth quarter, September to December contracts traded at $15.80 with a range of $15.70 to $15.90 per hundredweight.

HEIFER INVENTORIES ARE SURGING with 4.78 million replacements over 500 pounds on U.S. farms this January. That compares to 4.75 mil- lion head at the same time last year, for a difference of 27,300 heifers. The 4.78 million head was the second largest total dating back to 1962.

IF THERE IS A GLIMMER OF OPTIMISM, the number of heifers expected to calve fell by 33,700 over the past one-year window, from January 2017’s 3.07 million to January 2018’s 3.04 million head.

DEPRESSED MILK PRICES, combined with strong replacement inventories, have sent springing heifer prices tumbling down. Over the past two years, replacement values fell by $310 per head. In Jan- uary 2016, springing heifers fetched $1,830, this January it’s $1,520.

WHILE MARGINS CONTINUE TO SHRINK, the Margin Protection Program (MPP-Dairy) delivered no payouts in 2017. Ration costs for December were $7.84 with a margin of $9.36. Payouts begin at $8.

DECEMBER’S MPP-DAIRY VALUES included a $17.20 All-Milk price, $3.23 per bushel corn, $148 per ton alfalfa, and $319 per ton soybean meal.

CHEESE OUTPUT POSTED A NEW RECORD for the 26th straight year. In 2017, production grew 2.6 percent to pass 12.5 billion pounds. Since 1990, cheese has more than doubled from 6 to 12 billion pounds.

MOZZARELLA ACCOUNTED for 33.4 percent or 4.2 billion pounds of all cheese, while Cheddar’s share was 28.6 percent or 3.6 billion pounds.

BUTTER PUSHED THE ALL-TIME RECORD set in 1941. Last year, manufacturers produced 1.84 billion pounds of butter. That also made 2017 the sixth straight year that butter output topped 1.8 billion.

EXPORTS ENDED THE YEAR on a high note, up 6 percent on volume, and 14 percent on value. December accounted for 16.4 percent of milk flow.

CORN YIELDS OUTPACED 2016 BY TWO BUSHELS per acre, reported USDA. In 2017, corn grain yields were 176.6 bushels. Corn silage slipped to 19.9 tons per acre compared to 20.3 one year earlier.

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