Milk swirl.
October 22, 2018

September Milk Production Climbs Another 1.3%

 |  By: Jim Dickrell

Despite low prices, milk production in the United States surged another 1.3% in September. In the third quarter of 2018, July through September, milk production rose 0.9%.


Cow numbers, however, continued to slump in September, down 32,000 head from a year ago and down 41,000 head from January. Fifteen of the top 23 states reported a drop in cow numbers. Much of the increased production came from more milk per cow, which averaged a pound per day for cows in the top 23 states.


California’s production was up 4.8% in September, but this was mostly due to a heat-induced slump a year ago in the Golden State. Cow numbers in California are down 12,000 head from a year ago.


The big gainers in September were Texas, up 8.9%, with cow numbers up 24,000 cows, Colorado, up 8.7%, with cow numbers up 14,000 head, and Kansas, up 4.5% with 8,000 more cows.


Ten states reported milk production declines in September, some of them substantial: Virginia, -10.2%; Florida, -8.7%; Illinois, -6.7%; Ohio, -6.2%; Indiana, -5.3%; Pennsylvania, -4.3%; Michigan, -2.1%; Arizona, -1.6%; Vermont, -0.9%, and Iowa, -0.5%.


Here are some thoughts on production per cow from Brian Gould, a University of Wisconsin dairy economist: “Since 1970, per cow milk production has increased 135%.  Relative to 1995, between 1995-2017 U.S. per cow milk yield [rose] close to 40%, as did total U.S. milk production given there were about 9.4 million milk cows.  Only in 1996 did we observe a slight (<1%) year-over-year decrease in per cow milk yield.


“When I look at this yield growth I am always amazed.  Will this yield ever plateau?  Obviously, there is a difference between yield vs. profit maximization.  As an industry, is this yield too high?”


You can read the full September milk production report here.