There’s a well-known phrase, “All that glitters is not gold.”

That could be the headline for the dairy portion of the “Agricultural Prices” report issued by the U.S. Department of Agriculture on Tuesday.

Despite an all-milk price of $19.20 in January, the milk-feed profitability ratio fell to 1.77, which is one of the worst levels since the disastrous year of 2009. The ratio was 1.81 in December.

It is not until the ratio reaches 3.0 that it is considered profitable to buy feed and produce milk.

The reason the ratio is so low is the high cost of feed.

The corn price used in January’s calculation was $5.90 per bushel, up four cents from December. The soybean price rose, as well, to $11.70 per bushel. The price of alfalfa hay dropped $7 to $192 per ton; however, that price appears to be an underestimation. In many parts of the country, premium alfalfa hay costs more than $280 per ton — if it is available at all.

See “Mesa dairy farmer needs feed costs to drop.”