The USDA announced November milk production for the 20-major dairy states at 11.7 billion pounds, up just 1.8 percent from a year ago. While it’s not a decrease in milk production, it is a move in the right direction. Milk per cow came in at 1,501 pounds for the month — an increase of 16 pounds compared to November 2001. But the good news is that it is a decrease of 40 pounds from last month.

In addition, the agency revised October milk production down 0.2 percent, making October’s increase in milk production only 2.1 percent.

November marks the third month in a row that the milk production increase has gotten incrementally smaller since peaking at a 4.1 percent increase in August. That’s one of the trends that the industry needs to see in order to have any hope of higher prices. The other is a decrease in cow numbers.

Unfortunately, the cow number segment of the report didn’t deliver what industry analysts had hoped. While slaughter numbers of dairy cows has risen — slaughter activity in November is running about 5 percent above November 2001 — the Milk Production report announced that cow numbers for November are up slightly over last year and last month. Cow numbers for the top 20 states stood at 7.79 million head. That’s 54,000 head more than November 2001, but just 1,000 more than last month.

All told, the report shows some weakness in milk production, which means that producers are responding to market conditions. However, for producers who have been struggling with low milk prices for months, the small incremental declines in the amount of milk production increase reported is not enough to offer any immediate price relief.