In USDA’s most recent Milk Production report, May milk output was 19.7 million pounds, down 0.9% from the same month a year before. Milk per cow was averaged 2,105 pounds, down 3 pounds per cow from May of 2023.

The biggest contributor to the decline in milk production from last year to this year is the number of cows being milked around the country. There were 9.35 million head of milk cows in May, down 68,000 from a year ago. The national herd was up 5,000 head from April’s USDA report, though.

In the top 24 dairy states, milk production in May totaled 18.9 billion pounds, down 0.7% from a year ago. That followed a 0.4% decline in milk production in April compared to April 2023. Milk per cow was 2,122 pounds, which was a slight dip of 3 pounds compared to May of last year, and the milk cow population totaled 8.89 million head. Even though that was up 5,000 cows from April, it was 52,000 head less than May 2023.

Both monthly milk production and cow numbers have been on a downward trend since last summer. It is not because of elevated culling, though, as dairy cow slaughter remains below historical averages. In USDA’s Livestock Slaughter report that was also released last week, 216,100 dairy cows were shipped for beef in May. That was 33,000 fewer head compared to May 2023. Year-to-date, dairy cow slaughter is down more than 150,000 head from 2023 levels.

Several factors are at play in terms of both reduced culling and lower milk production. For one, replacement heifers are scarce and expensive, forcing farms to hang on to cows longer than they have in the past. Avian influenza is also impacting herds in various parts of the country, with one of the main symptoms being a significant drop in milk output in infected animals.

This time of year also brings weather impacts, and this summer has been no exception. Hot temperatures and high humidity stretched across portions of the country last week and this week, and the forecast for July is that most of the nation will experience above average temperatures during what is already the hottest month of the year. Under those conditions, it would be unlikely to see milk output rebound in the short term.

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(c) Hoard's Dairyman Intel 2024
June 27, 2024
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