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More dairy cows are expected in the first half of 2023

U.S. milk production jumped again in September, thanks to increases in cow numbers and output per cow but there’s more to the report than meets the eye. 

The United States Agriculture Department’s latest data shows output at 18.28 billion pounds, up 1.5% from September 2021. The 24 state total, at 17.5 billion pounds, was up 1.6%. It is the third monthly increase in 2022 and revisions raised the 50 state August total by 15 million pounds to 19.03 billion, up 1.7% from a year ago, instead of the 1.6% increase originally reported.

Cow numbers were expected to rise but the September herd totaled 9.41 million, down 2,000 head from August numbers which were revised 14,000 head lower. The September herd was up 6,000 from a year ago, first time since September 2021 the herd size was above a year ago but was 8,000 fewer than the peak in May.

StoneX Dairy Group called the report “neutral to slightly bullish,” and “with only 52,000 cows added to the herd over four months, 2022 has presented the weakest herd expansion seen in the U.S. over the last 15 years.” 

Output per cow averaged 1,943 pounds, up 27 pounds or 1.4% from September 2021. August output was revised up 4 pounds, to 2,022 pounds.

Third quarter milk output was up 1.2% from 2021 with cow numbers unchanged from second quarter but 29,000 less than third quarter 2021.

California output totaled 3.3 billion pounds in September, up 0.5% from a year ago. Cow numbers were up 4,000 and output per cow was up 20 pounds. Wisconsin produced 2.6 billion pounds, up 0.9%. Cow numbers were down 7,000 but output per cow was up 30 pounds from a year ago.

Idaho was up 2.4% on a 30 pound gain per cow and 6,000 more cows. Michigan was down 0.7% on a loss of 11,000 cows. Output per cow was up 40 pounds. Minnesota was up 0.6%, thanks to a 45 pound per cow gain offsetting an 8,000 cow drop. New Mexico was down 3.3% on a 16,000 cow drop. A 40 pound increase in output per cow could not offset the loss in cow numbers. 

New York was up 2.2%, thanks to a 55 pound gain per cow offsetting a loss of 3,000 cows. Oregon was down 0.9% on a loss of 1,000 cows and unchanged output per cow. Pennsylvania was off 0.1%, on a drop of 5,000 cows. Output per cow was up 15 pounds. South Dakota was up 14.9, thanks to 25,000 more cows but output per cow was down 10 pounds. Texas was up 8.5% on 30,000 more cows and a 70 pound gain per cow. 

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Vermont was unchanged, thanks to a 45 pound gain per cow offsetting the loss of 3,000 cows. Washington State was down 1.2% on 7,000 fewer cows, though output per cow was up 30 pounds. 

The USDA’s October livestock dairy and poultry outlook stated, “Based on recent milk production information, the forecast for the average number of milk cows in 2022 has been increased 5,000 head, to 9.41 million as a more rapid pace of expansion is expected in late 2022. The projected average yield per cow was adjusted higher for the remainder of 2022, at 24,110 pounds. 

More dairy cows are expected in the first half of 2023 and productivity is expected to be higher. Cow numbers were increased 10,000 head to 9,425 million. Milk per cow was raised 20 pounds, to 24,320 pounds, says the USDA.

Dairy cow culling fell in September. An estimated 260,500 head were sent to slaughter under federal inspection, according to the latest livestock slaughter report, down 5,600 head from August and 4,100 or 1.5% below September 2021. Culling in the nine months totaled 2.28 million, down 59,800 or 2.6% from 2021.

Culling in the week ending October 8, totaled 60,000 dairy cows, down 1,100 from the previous week but 600 head or 1% above a year ago.

Dairy cow slaughter has exceeded 2021 levels for three consecutive weeks, according to StoneX, however “The market share of dairy cows being processed as part of the beef market has fallen from year ago levels. Total cattle slaughter is also up and has exceeded year ago levels for the last seven weeks.” Feed costs and availability are blamed. “That coupled with the strong cash price for cattle is lending plenty of fuel to the fire to incentivize farmers to sell their cows.”

International dairy markets remain bearish. The October 18 Global Dairy Trade’s weighted average dropped 4.6%, following the 3.5% decline on October 4. Traders brought 64.8 million pounds of product to market, down from 68 million on October 4. The average metric ton price fell to $3,723 U.S., down from $3,911.

Declines were led by skim milk powder, down 6.9%, following a 1.6% slip on October 4. Whole milk powder was down 4.4%, after slipping 4%. Cheese was down 3.9%, following a 3.8% decline. Anhydrous milkfat and butter were down 2.7% and 2.6% respectively, after AMF fell 1.7% on October 4 and butter was down 7%.

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