This marks the eighth straight year that butterfat levels have set a new record. In 2022, federal order pools with multiple component pricing averaged 4.08% butterfat, reported Peter Fredericks, California’s Federal Milk Marketing Order (FMMO) administrator.

In 2021, USDA reported that milkfat levels across the country averaged 4.01%. While the 4.08% level for 2022 does not include every drop of milk in the nation as the statistic only included FMMOs under multiple component pricing provisions, it does cover the supermajority of the U.S. milk supply. That’s because nearly 92% of the nation’s milk is priced based on milk components.

A deeper look into regions

Last year’s component leader, the Southwest order that includes Texas and New Mexico, saw its milkfat levels move from 4.09% in 2021 to 4.16% in 2022. Protein levels followed suit by growing from 3.32% to 3.34% during the same time span.

The Pacific Northwest order, which was the very first order to move past 4% butterfat, made a major move this past year going from 2021’s 4.11% to 2022’s 4.3% butterfat. Protein levels also notched major movement, going from 3.3% to 3.4% in a one year window. The pair of 2022 component totals led all federal orders.

The Upper Midwest FMMO, anchored by Wisconsin where 90% of the milk goes into cheese, made a hard charge in its butterfat output, moving from 4.03% to 4.12% in the past two years. As a point of reference, the Upper Midwest milk averaged 3.68% in 2010. Milk protein also showed improvement in going from 3.17% to 3.22%. Annual protein levels have climbed in each of the last four years and the jump in 2022 was the largest year-over-year gain, reported Victor Halverson, the Upper Midwest FMMO administrator.

The vast Central order, covering four states and portions of six additional states, also showed significant movement, rising from 3.98% to 4.06% this past year. Its administrator reports that annual butterfat averages have been moving in an upward trend during the last 12 years, increasing every year except 2014.

Although changes in protein and butterfat content in producer milk typically follow similar patterns, data for the Central FMMO indicates that this correlation is far from perfect. To that end, average annual protein levels have exhibited an overall increasing trend on the Central FMMO, with a few bumps along the way. Protein tests were relatively flat during the early 2000s (2000 to 2005) and again from 2006 to 2010, the latter period an overall higher plateau, reported Central order officials. Since then, protein tests have increased in 10 of the 12 years since 2010, peaking at 3.27% in 2022. That was up from 3.24% in 2021.

California ranked fifth among all federal orders for butterfat nationwide at 4.05%. It had been at 3.92% just one year earlier. Only five of its counties recorded a butterfat test at or above the 4.05% level: Humboldt, 4.31%; Tulare, 4.14%; Kings, 4.11%; Merced, 4.1%; and Marin, 4.05%

When protein is concerned, California ranked third behind the Pacific Northwest and the Southwest at 3.32%. One year ago, its milk yielded 3.25%. Merced and Tulare topped the list at 3.36% test. Those two counties were followed by Madera, 3.35%; Kings, 3.33%, and Stanislaus, 3.32%. Just like butterfat, only five counties had protein tests at or above average for the year, reported Fredericks.

Rounding out the multiple component orders were the Northeast and the Mideast. Both moved into the 4% butterfat club for the first time last year at 4.03% and 4.02%, respectively. The Mideast topped the duo at 3.22% protein. The Northeast was the lowest among the group of seven at 3.16%.

Read more about the butterfat boom at, "Butterfat varies vastly by region."

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(c) Hoard's Dairyman Intel 2023
April 24, 2023

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