Milk production across the top-20 dairy states continued to decline during October.

According to the USDA’s “Milk Production” report, released Nov. 17, milk output totaled 12 billion pounds during October — down just 0.2 percent from last year.

The reduced output can be linked to a 25,000-head reduction in milk-cow numbers from September and 70,000 less cows compared to a year ago. The reduction is a bit of an anomaly since cow numbers often increase during October. However, this year is an exception, partly because of the recent movement of cows to slaughter under the Cooperatives Working Together initiative.

Among the top-20 dairy states, only California, Idaho, New Mexico and Texas posted gains in cow numbers during October. The table at right shows milk-cow numbers in the top-20 dairy states during October.

Despite a reduction in cow numbers, milk production per cow in the 20-major dairy states showed an 11-pound gain during October compared to a year ago. Milk production per cow averaged 1,550 pounds for the month.

  Of the top-20 milk-producing states, 13 posted milk-production losses during October. Among them, the hardest hit states were Virginia, Kentucky, Pennsylvania and Florida — posting losses of 10 percent, 8.1 percent, 7.5 percent and 7.4 percent, respectively.

Meanwhile, several top milk-producing states made production gains. Idaho and Texas saw the largest gains — up 9.3 percent and 7.6 percent, respectively. Two other western states — New Mexico and Arizona came in a distant third and fourth with production gains of 3.9 percent and 2.3 percent, respectively.

Meanwhile, California, saw another drop in production during October — this time down only 0.6 percent compared to the 8.4-percent drop during September. Cow numbers increased 38,000 head in the Golden State versus a year ago. In Wisconsin, an 18,000-head reduction in cow numbers did not hamper milk output, which climbed 1.4 percent above year-ago levels.