March milk production climbed 3.2 percent compared to year-ago levels, according to the USDA’s March “Milk Production” report, released yesterday afternoon.

Milk production in the top 20 dairy states totaled 12.8 billion pounds during March.

The USDA also revised February milk production — decreasing it 0.5 percent, or 56 million pounds, from its preliminary estimate released during March. February revised milk production — at 11.4 billion pounds — is still 2.3 percent above February 2001 milk output.

First quarter milk production, also included in the report, totaled 42.3 billion pounds — 2.4 percent above first quarter milk production during 2001. Milk cow numbers during the first three months of this year averaged 9.11 million head — a decrease of 38,000 head compared to the same time period a year ago.

Strong milk per cow drove the milk production gain during March. Monthly milk production per cow averaged 1,650 pounds or 55 pounds per cow per day. The monthly average also is 51 pounds more milk per cow than March 2001.

All but four of the top 20 dairy states saw gains in milk output during March. Among the top 20 states, New Mexico, Arizona, Ohio and Idaho led the nation in milk production gains during March — climbing 16.8 percent, 10.8 percent, 8.4 percent and 7.3 percent, respectively. Meanwhile, Florida and Minnesota took the greatest hit in milk production during March — down 3.7 percent and 3.6 percent, respectively. Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, the other two states that lost milk production, saw only a 0.9 percent and 0.1 percent drop in milk output during March. Total milk production for the top 20 dairy states is shown in the table below.

Cow numbers also appear to be recovering slightly. The 20-state cow herd totaled 7.75 million head during March — 1,000 head more than February and 2,000 head more than March 2001.