Much to the surprise of market analysts, July milk production grew 2.3 percent above year-ago levels. Some analysts were predicting a mere 1- to 1.5-percent gain in milk output. The higher-than expected output — an indication that hot weather during July didn’t hurt production as much as anticipated — isn’t good news for low milk prices.

According to the USDA’s July “Milk Production” report, milk output totaled 12.3 billion pounds in the top-20 dairy states.

The USDA also revised June milk production, increasing it 0.2 percent, or 27 million pounds, from its preliminary estimate released during July. June revised milk production stands at 12.3 billion pounds — 2.2 percent above June 2001.

Milk output per cow — at 1,580 pounds for the month, or about 53 pounds per cow per day — showed similar performance to June. However, the monthly average is up 28 pounds per cow compared to July 2001.

Despite a heat wave that sent temperatures soaring into the triple-digits, several key states in the West saw strong gains in milk production during July. Among the top-20 states, New Mexico, Texas and California led the nation in milk production gains during July — climbing 15.6 percent, 6.7 percent and 6.3 percent, respectively. Meanwhile, dairy states east of the Mississippi suffered losses. Minnesota, Kentucky and Wisconsin saw the greatest decline in milk output during July — down 6 percent, 3 percent and 2.5 percent, respectively. Total July milk production for the top-20 dairy states is shown in the table below.

Meanwhile, cow numbers continue to forge ahead. The 20-state cow herd totaled 7.79 million head during July — 7,000 head more than June and 40,000 head more than a year ago.