January’s milk production for the U.S. was up just 1.0%, and February’s milk production was up 1.1%. Milk cow numbers, which had small increases last December and January ,did not increase in February resulting in February cow numbers slightly lower than a year ago at a -0.1%. Milk per cow was 1.2% higher than a year ago.
California’s milk production continues to improve after production declining 1.3% last year. Compared to a year earlier California’s milk production was up 4.4% in January and 5.3% in February. California has added milk cows and improved milk per cow. The severe drought is not impacting milk production at this time.
With much stronger milk prices and feed cost lower than a year ago (except for alfalfa hay) California dairy farmers are producing all the milk they can to pay down accumulated debt incurred from the crash in milk prices back in 2009 and high feed prices the fall and winter of 2012/13 from the drought of 2012. Idaho had fewer cows but higher milk per cow, resulting in a 2.6% increase in milk production. Milk production was up 2.2% in Arizonia and 3.2% in Texas. Both states had added milk cows and had improved milk per cow. New Mexico however, had 1.4% less milk all due to lower milk per cow.
Upper Midwest states continue to have lower milk production. Milk production was down 2.7% in Iowa, 2.3% in Minnesota and 2.0% in Wisconsin. Each of these states had lower milk per cow and, except for Wisconsin, had fewer milk cows.
Milk production was up just 0.2% in New York and down 0.2% in Pennsylvania and 3.7% in Ohio. Cow numbers were lower in Pennsylvania and Ohio, and milk per cow was lower in New York and Ohio. Of the 23 reporting states, eight had fewer milk cows, 10 had less milk per cow and seven had less total milk production.
Normally with the level of milk prices and favorable margins we would expect to see milk production increase as producers add milk cow numbers and feed for higher milk per cow. But, many producers are still recovering financially from the very depressed milk prices experienced in 2009 followed by the widespread drought the summer of 2012 pushing up feed prices from the fall of 2012, through the first half of 2013. So rather than expansions of dairy operations, some producers are paying off accumulated debt. Also dairy producers may be more cautious on expansions recognizing the milk prices will not stay at record levels for ever and feed costs can increase again.
Also last year a wet spring followed later by drought conditions in much of the Midwest reduced the quantity and quality of forages which appear to now be impacting milk per cow. The extreme cold this winter may also have added to some herd health issues.