April milk production in the top 23 dairy states was up 1.7 percent over last year, according to the USDA NASS Milk Production report released yesterday. This rise in milk production surprised many industry observers. The combination of higher cull cow prices and low milk prices was expected to result in a larger drop in cow numbers and, perhaps, a drop in milk output.

This was the second month this year that milk production was above year-earlier levels. March milk output in the top 23 states was up 0.9 percent.

In the top states, there were 155,000 fewer cows on farms in April than a year ago. However, there were 3,000 more cows in those states than in March.

Nationally, there were 186,000 fewer cows (-2 percent) on farms when compared to a year ago. However, there has been a 14,000-cow gain in the U.S. dairy herd since last December . . . 9.096 million head versus 9.082 million.

Milk per cow is the big story. Across the nation, April milk output per cow was up 3.5 percent from last year and averaged more than 60 pounds per day for the first time in history.

After being down for a number of months, milk production in California was up very slightly in April. Wisconsin milk production shot up 6.2 percent, mostly on a big, 5.8 percent jump in the amount of milk produced per cow. There were 5,000 more cows (+0.4 percent) on Wisconsin dairy farms.

Milk production in New York (+1.7 percent), Idaho (+3.3), and Pennsylvania (+2.8) was up. Both Texas (-2.2) and New Mexico (-1.7) were down.