Stronger milk prices and tighter supplies of cows and heifers pressured U.S. average prices for dairy replacements higher in April according to latest estimates from the USDA. Meanwhile, cull cow prices to end the first quarter of 2022 were the highest in more than six years.

Natzke dave
Editor / Progressive Dairy

Replacement cow prices hit five-year high

U.S. replacement dairy cow prices averaged $1,570 per head in April 2022, up $190 (14%) from January 2022 and $260 (20%) more than April 2021. Although it’s the highest quarterly average since late 2017, April 2022’s average price was still 26% per head less than the latest high of $2,120 per head in October 2014.

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.

Compared to the previous quarter, average replacement cow prices were up all 24 major dairy states tracked by the USDA (Table 1). The largest quarterly increases were in Pennsylvania, up $300 per head, and Indiana, Michigan and New York, all up $270 per head.

dairy cow replacement prices

Compared to a year earlier, April 2022 replacement cow prices were up $480 in Pennsylvania, $370 in Vermont, and $340 in Indiana and New York.


When overlayed on USDA Milk Production reports, changes in average replacement prices were again weakly correlated with trends in cow numbers. The major states saw dairy January-March 2022 cow numbers hold steady compared to October-December 2021.

Among individual states, quarterly average cow numbers were down in 10 states, with Pennsylvania, Michigan and New York – states with some of the largest increases in replacement prices – posting some of the largest quarterly declines in cow numbers.

In contrast, South Dakota, Texas – the two states with strongest quarterly growth in cow numbers – had some of the smallest increases in replacement cow prices.

Heifer prices moving higher too

Progressive Dairy’s Market Watch: Cattle tracks dairy heifer prices from about 20 auction markets throughout the U.S., with price summaries updated about every two weeks. The listings cover top and medium springers, shortbred and open heifers, and heifer calves.

In most of those markets, prices for average Holstein springers have been climbing in recent weeks, with top springers bringing $1,600-$2,400 per head. Price trends are similar for short-bred heifers.

Cull cow prices strong

While higher milk prices are providing incentives to add cows to the herd, cull cow prices are also on the rise.

U.S. prices received for cull cows (beef and dairy, combined) averaged $84.70 per hundredweight (cwt) during March 2022, up $6.80 from February 2022, up $17.50 from March 2021 and the highest monthly average since October 2015.

According to USDA’s Dairy Market News in a recent report from a Pacific Northwest livestock auction, organic cull cows traded higher than conventional cows. The average price for the top 10 organic cows auctioned was $117.53 per cwt, compared to an average price of $98.45 per cwt for the top 10 conventional cows auctioned.