Each month, Dairy Herd Management publishes consumption data from Dairy Management Inc., which manages the national checkoff program. This information is found in the Market Watch section.

The latest round of data is mostly bearish. Retail sales of fluid milk in the 52 weeks ending Jan. 22 was down 3.9 percent compared to the same period a year earlier. And, retail sales of cheese were down 1 percent over that same time period.  

The bearish trend in fluid milk and cheese sales has been in place for at least the past 12 months.

What is holding consumption up is a booming export market. Thanks to exports, total commercial disappearance of dairy products is up despite the downturn in fluid milk and cheese sales.

Two weeks ago, the U.S. Dairy Export Council announced that exports reached record levels in 2011. Read more.