Milk production appears to have no limits.

During January, the top 23 dairy states pumped out 14 billion pounds of milk  up a whopping 5.4 percent versus a year ago, according to the January “Milk Production” report, released Feb. 17.

Milk output per cow led the production gain — up 4.1 percent in the top 23 dairy states. Per-cow output averaged 1,711 pounds for the month, or about 55 pounds per cow per day. The monthly average also represents a gain of 68 pounds versus January 2005.

The 23-state cow herd also continued to grow — up 1.3 percent during January versus a year ago. Cow numbers in the top 23 states totaled 8.19 million head — 103,000 head more than January 2005 and 11,000 head more than December 2005.

Only three of the top 23 dairy states posted losses in total milk output during January. Those states were Florida, down 3.3 percent; Oregon, down 2.7 percent and Kentucky, down 2.5 percent.

Meanwhile, total milk output grew 15.8 percent in New Mexico, 14.1 percent in Texas and 10.3 percent in Idaho. Indiana came in fourth, posting a gain of 9.1 percent versus a year ago.

California and Wisconsin, up 5.1 percent and 5 percent, respectively, nearly tied for gains in milk production during January. The table at right shows total milk output in each of the top 23 dairy states during January.

The USDA report also included 2005 annual milk production. U.S. annual production was 177 billion pounds — up 3.5 percent versus 2004 annual production. Production per cow averaged 19,576 for 2005 — a gain of 609 pounds versus 2004. The U.S. cow herd averaged 9.04 million head in 2005 — up 3.2 percent versus 2004.

Here are some other highlights from the report:

  • Annual milk production in the U.S. has increased 15 percent over the past 10 years.
  • Annual milk output per cow has increased 19 percent over the past 10 years.
  • Annual cow numbers have decreased 4 percent over the past 10 years.
  • The average number of licensed dairy operations in the U.S. was 64,555 in 2005, down from 66,825 in 2004.