September 2021-22 recap at a glance

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

Natzke dave
Editor / Progressive Dairy
  • U.S. milk production: 18.28 billion pounds, up 1.5%
  • U.S. cow numbers: 9.411 million, up 6,000 head
  • U.S. average milk per cow: 1,943 pounds, up 27 pounds
  • 24-state milk production: 17.51 billion pounds, up 1.8%
  • 24-state cow numbers: 8.928 million, up 19,000 head
  • 24-state average milk per cow: 1,961 pounds, up 26 pounds

Source: USDA Milk Production report, Oct. 20, 2022

September 2022 U.S. milk production was up moderately from a year ago, when cow numbers were in steep decline.

Cow numbers up, but down

In summer and fall of 2021, U.S. cow numbers were on a path of sharp decline, dropping by about 102,000 head between May and September, culminating in a 140,000-head decline between May 2021 and January 2022. 

Preliminary September 2022 U.S. cow numbers were estimated at 9.411 million head, up 6,000 from a year ago but 2,000 less than August 2022. The other surprise is the USDA reduced the August 2022 estimate to 9.413 head, down 14,000 from last month’s preliminary estimate.


Among the 24 major dairy states (Table 1), September 2022 cow numbers were estimated at 8.928 million, up 19,000 from September 2021 but 2,000 less than August 2022. The USDA also revised the preliminary August 2022 up by 2,000 head.


Texas led all states in year-over-year growth in September 2022, up 30,000 head from a year ago, followed by South Dakota, (+25,000), Iowa (+12,000) and Georgia (+10,000).

Compared to a year earlier, cow number declines were again heaviest in New Mexico and Michigan, down 16,000 and 11,000 head, respectively.

Milk per cow improves

With heat stress starting to wane, milk production per cow improved slightly. Monthly production in the U.S. and major dairy states is up just under 1 pound per day from year-ago September levels (Table 2). Year-over-year milk per cow increased in 18 states, led by Texas. Only Florida and South Dakota saw lower output per cow compared to the same month a year earlier.

Milk production posts moderate gain

With cow numbers and milk output per cow up slightly from last year’s depressed levels, September 2022 overall milk production was up 1.5% in the U.S. and 1.6% among major dairy states compared to a year earlier.

September 2022 year-over-year milk production was up in 12 states. Texas led all states in terms of volume growth, up 105 million pounds, followed by South Dakota (+46 million) and Idaho (+32 million). Ten states posted small declines.

South Dakota and Georgia again led all states in year-over-year percentage milk growth, up about 15% and 13%, respectively. Florida milk production was down about 13%.

Quarterly update

With preliminary September numbers in, the USDA estimated July-September U.S. milk production was up 1.2% from the same period a year ago. The average number of milk cows in the U.S. during the quarter was 9.41 million head, unchanged from the April-June 2022, but 29,000 head less than the July-September last year.