Registering its strongest gains year-over-year and the highest monthly dollar total since May, U.S. dairy export values rose 4.4 percent to $444.4 million in January, according to USDA. Only milk powder exports did not experience gains over the previous month and previous year, say U.S. Dairy Export Council officials.

January cheese shipments grew 13 percent vs. January 2012 to 21,960 tons. Whey protein volume increased 6 percent to 38,823 tons, with the volume mix again trending toward WPC. WPC exports jumped 41 percent (to 18,653 tons), more than offsetting a 14 percent decline in sweet whey. WPI volume held steady. Lactose exports increased 11 percent to 28,374 tons.

Still, SMP shipments fell 18 percent compared to January 2012 to 31,671 tons, 2 percent lower than December 2012. With the exception of last November, the January 2013 number was the lowest of the past two years. And smaller dairy export categories all fared well: Total butterfat shipments grew 39 percent to 4,051 tons, food prep sales increased 24 percent to 8,963 tons, fluid milk jumped 59 percent to 7,700kl and ice cream volume more than doubled to 3,996 tons.