Milk output climbed 1 percent during December compared to year-ago levels, according to the USDA’s December “Milk Production” report, released yesterday afternoon.

Milk output in the top 20 states totaled 12 billion pounds during December —marking the second month in a row milk output has moved above year-ago levels. November revised milk production, also included in the report, was 11.5 billion pounds, up 0.8 percent compared to November 2000. This revision also represents an increase of 0.3 percent — or 38 million pounds —from USDA’s preliminary estimate last month.

The report also included fourth quarter milk production. The nation’s milk supply grew 0.2 percent in October, November and December compared to the same time period a year ago. The average number of milk cows in the U.S. during the fourth quarter was 9.1 million head — 113,000 head less than fourth quarter 2000.

According to the report, milk production per cow in the top 20 states climbed 28 pounds per cow during December compared to the same time a year ago. Output per cow averaged 1,547 pounds — about 52 pounds per cow per day.

Among the top milk-producing states, New Mexico, Idaho, Indiana and California led the pack in milk production, climbing 12.4 percent, 7.2 percent, 4.3 percent and 3.5 percent, respectively. Meanwhile, milk production fell significantly in Missouri, Minnesota and Texas — down 9.6 percent, 5.4 percent and 4.7 percent, respectively. The chart below shows total milk production in the top 20 states during December.

In addition to positive milk output, cow numbers in the top 20 states grew on a month-to-month basis — up 10,000 head compared to November. However, the cow herd — at 7.74 million head in December — lost 62,000 head compared to year-ago levels.