For the 23rd month in a row, milk production in the United States has grown on a year-over-year basis.

In December, milk production in the 23 major dairy states totaled 15.4 billion pounds, up 2.7 percent from December 2010.

Across all 50 states, milk production was up 2.5 percent, according to the “Milk Production” report released Monday afternoon by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Dave Kurzawski, dairy analyst for FCStone/Downes-O’Neill, called the report “bearish.” 

"Total milk production was stronger than anticipated due to a large increase in cow numbers and very strong milk per cow," he said.

That sentiment is echoed by Greg Scheer, dairy analyst with Doane Advisory Services in St. Louis.

The rate of increase across all 50 states — 2.5 percent — was the largest for the year and well above the average increase for the year of 1.8 percent, Scheer says. He also cited a substantial increase in cow numbers — 99,000 in the top 23 dairy states — from December 2010 to December 2011. 

States that showed the higher production increase in December were:  Indiana, 6.3 percent; Colorado, 4.9 percent, and Washington, 4.7 percent. California, the nation’s No. 1 milk-producing state, was up 3.8 percent. Missouri declined by 1.7 percent.

Production per cow in the 23 major states averaged 1,818 pounds for December — 27 pounds higher than December 2010.