For the third month in a row, milk production in the Top 20 dairy states was down. After adjusting production for the additional leap year day in February 2000, the USDA 20-state milk production report listed February 2001 production as down 0.9 percent compared to a year ago.

Total cow numbers and milk per cow were both down. Cow numbers declined by 10,000 head from January 2001 to just 7.77 million head. However, the main reason overall milk production declined can be attributed to the drop in milk per cow. February 2001 showed a decline of almost 1 percent — a drop of 2.3 pounds per cow per day — compared to last year. In fact, after the adjustment for leap year, 15 of the top 20 states still had declines in milk per cow. Arizona, New Mexico and Texas led the way with declines in milk per cow of 11.3 percent, 7.2 percent and 11.5 percent respectively. California per-cow production was down 1.3 percent while Wisconsin was up 2.1 percent.

With producers exiting the dairy business, and a slow down in dairy expansion, “we can expect cow numbers to continue to slowly decline,” says Bob Cropp, extension dairy economist, University of Wisconsin - Madison. “So the big factor that can affect milk production this spring and summer is milk per cow. If milk per cow would improve to more normal levels, it would offset the decline in cow numbers and once again increase total milk production.”