In contrast to milk price volatility, average U.S. prices paid for dairy replacement cows have been fairly steady, based on the USDA’s quarterly estimates, released Oct. 30.
Natzke dave
Editor / Progressive Dairy

Preliminary October 2020 U.S. quarterly replacement dairy cow prices averaged $1,340 per head, the highest average since April 2018. The October average was up $30 from both July 2020 and October 2019. Over the past five quarters, U.S. average prices have ranged from a low of $1,250 per head in April 2020 to the current high of $1,340. The U.S. average was still 37% per head less than the latest peak of $2,120 in October 2014.

Among the 24 major dairy states (Table 1), October average prices were higher than the previous quarter in all but five states: Arizona, California, Idaho, Illinois and New Mexico. Largest increases were in Colorado, Minnesota and Virginia.

replacement cow prices

Compared to a year earlier, average prices were up $150-$160 per head in Florida, Virginia and Wisconsin, while $20-$50 lower in three states: California, New York and Vermont.

Highest October 2020 average prices were $1,450 in Arizona and $1,420 in Wisconsin, even though cow numbers have been trending lower in both states. Lowest average prices were $1,220 per head in Ohio and $1,240 in Minnesota and New York.


The USDA estimates are based on quarterly surveys (January, April, July and October) of dairy farmers in 24 major dairy states, as well as an annual survey (February) in all states. The prices reflect those paid or received for cows that have had at least one calf and are sold for replacement purposes, not as cull cows. The report does not summarize auction market prices.

Cull cow prices lower

U.S. average dairy cull cow prices followed normal patterns, weakening in fall as more beef cow come off pasture and are sent to market. The USDA publishes "final” price averages from the previous month.

September 2020 cull cow prices (beef and dairy combined) averaged $66.60 per hundredweight (cwt), down $4.10 from August but about $1 per cwt more than September 2019. Through the first nine months of 2020, cull cow prices are up about $4 per cwt from the same period a year ago.

Cull slaughter lags

Through the week ending Oct. 17, 2020, U.S. dairy cull cow slaughter was down 114,000 head compared to the same period a year earlier. Since early May 2020, weekly slaughter of cull dairy cows has been under totals for the corresponding period in 2019 for 23 consecutive weeks.  end mark

Dave Natzke