Dairy production, herd size see notable increases

economic-forecast-headerU.S. milk production is up nearly 4 percent from a year ago, and so is production per cow and the size of the nation’s collective dairy herd.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service reported onNov. 19 that milk production in the country’s 23 major dairy states in October was 16 billion pounds—3.9 percent more than in October 2013.

Production per cow in the 23 states averaged 1,868 pounds last month, which is 51 pounds more than a year ago and the highest per-cow rate for October since NASS began tracking production for the 23 states in 2003.

Shifts in domestic demand for dairy products and near-record highs for U.S. dairy exports are driving increased U.S. milk production, said Tony Banks, a commodity marketing specialist for Virginia Farm Bureau Federation. “U.S. dairy farms are among the most efficient in the world, and farmers will respond to market signals,” Banks said. “These production increases have to occur in spite of very high feed costs, and drought affects whether dairymen are to maintain or improve net operating margins. Higher farm milk prices and record-high cattle prices are encouraging dairy farmers to maximize dairy rations for production and to cull less-productive cows much quicker.

“Constant improvements in dairy genetics and computerized feeding systems also have contributed to increased per-cow and per-herd milk production.”

The number of milk cows on farms in the 23 states was 8.59 million; that’s 89,000 more than in October 2013.

Virginia is among those 23 states, along with Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Washington and Wisconsin.

The NASS report indicated 92,000 milk cows in the commonwealth, compared to 94,000 a year ago but noted a per-cow production average increase, from 1,510 pounds in October 2013 to 1,580 pounds last month. Virginia milk production for October was just over 2.3 billion pounds, which represents an increase of 2.1 percent over October 2013.

“Here in Virginia, dairymen will likely produce more milk in 2014 than they did in 2013, and they will do it with fewer cows,” Banks said.

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