Declining cow numbers and receding milk production per cow pulled January 2022 U.S. milk production below year-ago levels for a third consecutive month.
Natzke dave
Editor / Progressive Dairy

January 2021-22 recap at a glance

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

  • U.S. milk production: 19.05 billion pounds, down 1.6%
  • U.S. cow numbers: 9.368 million, down 82,000 head
  • U.S. average milk per cow: 2,034 pounds, down 15 pounds
  • 24-state milk production: 18.217 billion pounds, down 1.4%
  • 24-state cow numbers: 8.875 million, down 63,000 head
  • 24-state average milk per cow: 2,053 pounds, down 14 pounds

Source: USDA Milk Production report, Feb. 23, 2022

December numbers revised lower

In addition to lower estimates for January 2022, the USDA revised preliminary December 2021 numbers downward. At 18.79 billion pounds, U.S. milk production was reduced another 35 million pounds (0.2%), bringing December 2021 production down 0.8% from the same month a year earlier.

Annual estimate

With December’s revised estimate, U.S. 2021 milk production totaled 226.258 billion pounds, up 1.3% from 2020. The average number of milk cows in the U.S. during the year was 9.448 million head, up about 56,000 head compared to 2020. However, cow numbers closed 2021 down 69,000 head from December 2020. Production per cow in the U.S. averaged 23,948 pounds for 2021, 171 pounds more than 2020. Watch for complete state and regional analysis of 2021 milk production in the April 1, 2022, issue of Progressive Dairy.


January cow numbers continue decline

U.S. cow numbers declined for an eighth consecutive month and are now the lowest since June 2020. January 2022 cow numbers were also down 5,000 from the revised December estimate and are now down 139,000 head since peaking in May 2021. In the 24 major dairy states, January cow numbers were down 63,000 from a year earlier and down 5,000 head from the revised December estimate. The 24-state dairy herd is now down 121,000 head from the May 2021 peak.

cow numbers

Compared to a year earlier (Table 1), January 2022 cow numbers were reported higher in seven states and lower in 16 states; California was unchanged. For a third consecutive month, it was South Dakota atop the growth tables, up 28,000 head from January 2021 although unchanged from December 2021. Texas and Wisconsin cow numbers were up 12,000 and 11,000 head, respectively, from a year earlier.

Compared to a month earlier, New Mexico cow numbers were up 3,000 head, reversing a long-term downturn. Texas also increased by 3,000 head.

Compared to a year earlier, cow number declines continued in New Mexico (-42,000) and Washington (-17,000). Compared to a month earlier, Michigan cow numbers were down 4,000 head.

Dairy cull cow marketing slower

Cull cow slaughter has slowed to start the new year. Through Feb. 5, weekly slaughter in federally inspected plants totaled 366,900 head, about 25,000 head fewer than the same period a year earlier.

milk per cow

Milk per cow recedes

U.S. monthly milk production per cow fell below year-ago levels in January 2022, down 15 pounds. Among the 24 major dairy states, output per cow was down 14 pounds (Table 2).

Year-over-year milk per cow increased in just seven states, led by Texas, up a modest 35 pounds per cow for the month. Declines of about 1 pound per day were reported for California, Utah, Pennsylvania and Michigan. Despite the decline, Michigan maintained its lead over Colorado in milk output per cow.

Milk volume lower

Among major dairy states, January 2022 year-over-year milk production was down in 19 states, led by declines of 87 million pounds in New Mexico, 68 million pounds in California and 40 million pounds in Washington. On a percentage basis, New Mexico milk production was down 12% compared to January 2021.

South Dakota led all states in year-over-year milk volume growth in terms of both volume and percentage, up 51 million pounds (18.3%). Texas production was up 47 million pounds (3.5%).  end mark