Despite higher milk prices, dairy profitability is still not good, according to a profitability ratio published Friday afternoon by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The preliminary milk-feed ratio for April was 1.84, significantly lower than March when the ratio was 2.14. (The higher the ratio, the higher the profitability.)

It hasn't been this low since August 2009, when the ratio stood at 1.80. A year ago, it was 2.19.

High feed prices continue to put a drag on profitability.

A ratio of 1.84 means that a dairy producer can buy 1.84 pounds of feed for every pound of milk sold. Whenever the ratio meets or exceeds 3.0, it is considered profitable to buy feed and produce milk.

The all-milk price used in the calculation was $19.70, down 70 cents from March. The corn price was $6.40 per bushel, up 87 cents from March. Meanwhile, the soybean price rose to $12.80 per bushel from $12.70 per bushel in March. The price of alfalfa hay increased $19 per ton to $155. In California, the price for premium alfalfa hay is more than $300 per ton.

Source: “Agricultural Prices” report, USDA