WASHINGTON, D.C. -- While per capita consumption of fluid milk is expected to continue its decline, other long-term trends are positive for the dairy industry.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture released its agricultural projections through 2021 in conjunction with the agency’s Feb. 23-24 Agricultural Outlook Conference and reported commercial use of dairy products and dairy exports will continue rising in the next decade.

The long-term upward trend in output per cow continues, while milk cow numbers will decrease after 2011, according to the USDA.

The USDA projects:

  • After rising during 2005-08 and again in 2011, milk cow numbers are projected to follow year-to-year declines in 2012 through 2021. Total number of cows is projected at 8.94 million in 2021, down from 9.1 million in 2011.
  • Milk output per cow is projected to increase through 2021.
  • Commercial use of dairy products increases faster than population growth during the next decade, with cheese demand getting a boost from increased away-from-home eating. Per capita consumption of fluid milk will continue to slip, however.
  • U.S. dairy exports will grow consistently in the next decade, with increased global production lagging demand. Exports will rise from 9.2 billion pounds in 2011 to 16.2 billion pounds in 2021.
  • Farm-level milk prices will rise slowly in the next decade. The gains will be less than the rate of inflation, the USDA projects, because of gains in production efficiency and consolidation in the industry. The all-milk price for 2021 is projected at $21.75 per hundredweight, up from $20.15 in 2011.