Monthly U.S. milk production was below year-ago levels for a fifth consecutive month in May, with slow growth in milk per cow and cow numbers well below last year’s peak.
Natzke dave
Editor / Progressive Dairy

May 2021-22 recap at a glance

Reviewing the USDA preliminary estimates for May 2022 compared to May 2021:

  • U.S. milk production: 19.72 billion pounds, down 0.7%
  • U.S. cow numbers: 9.405 million, down 102,000 head
  • U.S. average milk per cow: 2,096 pounds, up 8 pounds
  • 24-state milk production: 18.84 billion pounds, down 0.6%
  • 24-state cow numbers: 8.912 million, down 84,000 head
  • 24-state average milk per cow: 2,114 pounds, up 8 pounds

Source: USDA Milk Production report, June 21, 2022

Cow numbers inching upward

Preliminary May 2022 U.S. cow numbers were up 2,000 head from the revised April estimate and are up 38,000 head from January but still down about 102,000 head from the peak in May 2021.

Among the 24 major dairy states, May cow numbers were up 3,000 from the revised April estimate. Since January, cow numbers increased by 38,000 head but remain 84,000 fewer than the May 2021 peak.


Compared to a year earlier (Table 1), May 2022 cow numbers were reported higher in just six states and lower in 18 states.

For a sixth consecutive month, it was South Dakota atop the year-over-year growth tables, up 23,000 head from May 2021, followed by Texas, up 21,000 head. Compared to a year earlier, cow number declines were heaviest in New Mexico, Michigan, Washington, Florida and New York, down a combined 93,000 head.

Compared to a month earlier, Texas cow numbers increased by 3,000 head, with Washington down 2,000 head.

062122 natzke cow numbers tb1

Dairy cull cow marketing slower

Dairy cull cow slaughter continues at a slower pace than a year ago. Through June 4, weekly slaughter in federally inspected plants totaled 1.38 million head, about 41,700 head fewer than the same period a year earlier.

Milk per cow growth slow

Growth in milk production per cow continues to be stagnant, with the U.S. and major dairy states monthly milk output up just 8 pounds from year-ago May levels (Table 2).

Year-over-year milk per cow increased in 16 states, led by Michigan and Texas, up 55 and 50 pounds, respectively. Lower output per cow occurred in five states, led by 40- and 30-pound declines in California and Washington, respectively.

062122 natzke cow numbers tb2

Milk volume lower

With lower cow numbers and minimal growth in milk per cow, overall milk production was down slightly in the U.S. and among major dairy states compared to a year earlier.

May 2022 year-over-year milk production was down in 17 states, led by a combined decline of 137 million pounds in New Mexico and California. That was offset by a combined 147-million-pound increase in Texas, South Dakota and Wisconsin.

In shuffling among the 24 major dairy states, Georgia surpassed Florida in total milk production for a second consecutive month, while Idaho jumped back above Texas for the first month since last September.

On a percentage basis, Florida and New Mexico milk production was down 11.9% and 10.5%, respectively, compared to May 2021.

Texas led all states in year-over-year milk volume growth, up 78 million pounds (5.8%). South Dakota led all states in year-over-year percentage milk growth, up 15.2% (46 million pounds). Georgia output was up 11.6% (18 million pounds).  end mark