The USDA’s January “Milk Production” report dashed any hope that weak milk prices will recover anytime soon. Instead, it showed milk production forging ahead for the 15th month in a row.

In the 20 major dairy states, milk output totaled 12.5 billion pounds during January — up 1.8 percent from a year ago.

The USDA also revised December milk production — increasing it 70 million pounds from the preliminary estimate released during January. December production now stands at 12.3 billion pounds — up 1.6 percent versus December 2001.

Milk per cow in the top-20 states averaged 1,608 pounds for the month — an increase of 17 pounds compared to January 2002. During the month, cows in these states produced an average of 54 pounds per cow per day. The table at right shows milk output per cow for the top-20 states during January.

Once again, cow numbers show no signs of retracting. The report pegged cow numbers in the top-20 states at 7.81 million head for January. That is 56,000 head more than last year and 4,000 head more than December.

Low milk prices did little to temper milk production gains in the top-20 dairy states during January. New Mexico, Michigan and California posted the most favorable increases in milk production during the month — up 6.7 percent, 5.1 percent and 5 percent, respectively. Meanwhile, Kentucky, Virginia and Florida saw the greatest declines in milk output — down 8.3 percent, 5.4 percent and 3.3 percent, respectively.

2002 annual milk production up 2.6 percent

In addition to monthly milk production, the report contained annual milk production figures for 2002. Annual milk production in the U.S. totaled 169.8 billion pounds during 2002 — an increase of 2.6 percent versus 2001. That is an increase of 0.1 percent compared to the USDA’s preliminary estimate released in January.

Production per cow averaged 18,571 pounds during 2002, an increase of 412 pounds versus 2001. The average annual rate of milk production per cow has increased 18 percent since 1993, the report notes.

Similarly, cow numbers climbed 0.3 percent during 2002 — to 9.14 million head. However, the number of milk cows has decreased 5 percent since 1993, according to the report.