Milk production still seeing modest gains despite continued herd declines
USDA’s Feb. 20 report on herd size and production by state showed overall production up 0.5 percent in Q4 compared to the same quarter last year. Herd size continues to decline as culling thinned the herd on both a national and twenty-three state basis. The U.S. lost an additional 2,000 head from the previous month, and average herd size for the quarter is now down 41,000 cows YOY.
The February Milk Production Report only contained updated statistics through December and did not include any details for January, likely due to the government shutdown. We have been trending lower on cow numbers throughout 2018, but overall milk production is holding fairly steady on modest gains in yield per cow. Extreme cold due to the recent polar vortex will likely knock back milk production in Q1 once those figures are released. Timing of flush and spring weather will be determining factors on whether output remains at or above last year’s level.
Monthly U.S. dairy herd population (1,000 head)
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