February 2022 milk production was lower than a year earlier, but an eight-month decline in cow numbers has come to a halt, bolstered by higher milk prices.
Natzke dave
Editor / Progressive Dairy

February 2021-22 recap at a glance

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

  • U.S. milk production: 17.515 billion pounds, down 1%
  • U.S. cow numbers: 9.37 million, down 96,000 head
  • U.S. average milk per cow: 1,869 pounds, up 1 pound
  • 24-state milk production: 16.747 billion pounds, down 0.7%
  • 24-state cow numbers: 8.877 million, down 77,000 head
  • 24-state average milk per cow: 1,887 pounds, up 3 pounds

Source: USDA Milk Production report, March 21, 2022

February cow numbers halt decline

For the first time since April-May 2021, U.S. cow numbers increased from the previous month but remained well below year-ago levels. February 2022 U.S cow numbers were up 3,000 from the revised January estimates but are down 96,000 head from a year ago and are 137,000 head lower than the peak in May 2021. Among the 24 major dairy states, cow numbers were up 3,000 head from January, down 77,000 from February 2021 and 119,000 less than May 2021’s peak.

Compared to a year earlier (Table 1), February 2022 cow numbers were reported higher in six states and lower in 16 states; Idaho and Oregon were unchanged.


cow numbers

For a fourth consecutive month, it was South Dakota atop the growth tables, up 27,000 head from February 2020. Texas, Wisconsin and Georgia cow numbers were up 15,000, 9,000 and 8,000 head, respectively, from a year earlier.

Compared to a year earlier, cow number declines continued in New Mexico (-44,000) and Washington (-15,000).

Compared to a month earlier, Texas cow numbers increased by 5,000 head. New Mexico and Minnesota cow numbers were each down 3,000 head.

Dairy cull cow marketing slower

Contributing to the short-term growth in cow numbers, cull cow slaughter continues at a slower pace to start the new year. Through March 5, weekly slaughter in federally inspected plants totaled 636,800 head, about 23,400 head fewer than the same period a year earlier.

Milk per cow steady

U.S. monthly milk production per cow was virtually unchanged from year-ago levels, up just 1 pound from February 2021. Among the 24 major dairy states, output per cow was up just 3 pounds (Table 2).

milk per cow

Year-over-year milk per cow increased in just nine states, led by Georgia, up 50 pounds per cow for the month. Declines occurred in eight states, led by Minnesota’s 25-pound drop. Michigan maintained its lead over Colorado in milk output per cow.

Milk volume lower

Among major dairy states, February 2022 year-over-year milk production was down in 18 states, led by declines of 86 million pounds in New Mexico, 27 million pounds in Michigan, 26 million pounds in Minnesota and 24 million pounds in Washington. On a percentage basis, New Mexico milk production was down 13% compared to February 2021.

Texas led all states in year-over-year milk volume growth, up 52 million pounds (4.3%). South Dakota led all states in year-over-year percentage milk growth, up 18.3% (46 million pounds). Georgia was third in both volume and percentage categories, up 19 million pounds (13.3%).  end mark