Milk production up slightly in October

Stronger prices and lower feed costs have producers keeping more cows and producing more milk per cow compared with last year.

WITH better prices and increased profitability, dairy producers are continuing to post incremental gains in monthly milk production. According to the October “Milk Production” report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, producers in the 23 major dairy states marketed 15.4 billion lbs., up 1.2% from the same month in 2012.

Production was 1% larger than a year ago in September, as well, and has generally been running 1-2% larger than prior-year levels since May.

Per cow production in October averaged 1,806 lbs./cow, up 14 lbs. from October 2012. Couple that increased production with a slightly larger dairy herd – up 36,000 head from last year – and the increased production is a simple mathematical function.

The dairy herd in USDA’s survey area totaled 8.5 million head in October, down incrementally from the previous month, but in keeping with seasonal trends. The herd typically peaks in size in late Spring and trends lower through the early weeks of winter.

Strong demand led to a sharp drawdown in dairy inventories, according to the October “Cold Storage” report from USDA. Butter stocks were cut by 59 million lbs., although butter inventories are still nearly 30 million lbs. larger than the 5-year average; inventories are now 174 million lbs., down from a May peak of 322 million.

Cheese stocks were likewise trimmed by 32 million lbs., more than double the typical October reduction. American cheese stocks are pretty close to the 5-year average, according to analyst Jerry Dryer at, clocking in at 629 million lbs.

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