Here’s an update on economic factors impacting your dairy profitability during the third week of January 2024.

Natzke dave
Editor / Progressive Dairy

Dairy cull cow marketing slowed during final four months of the year

The USDA will update U.S. dairy cow estimates in two upcoming reports: the December Milk Production report, released on Jan. 24; and a Cattle report, released on Jan. 31, which will estimate current dairy cow and replacement heifer inventories.

A smaller milking herd and improving milk income margins likely contributed to lower U.S. dairy cull cow marketing to end the year. Through Dec. 30, the number of dairy cows marketed for beef had trailed year-ago levels for 17 consecutive weeks and was down 82,400 from the same period a year earlier.

Preliminary dairy cull cow marketing was estimated at 3.076 million, up about 28,200 from a year earlier.

November ag trade balance ‘positive’

November’s U.S. ag trade balance was positive, the first month that’s happened since February.


The U.S. Department of Commerce/Census Bureau estimated the value of November agricultural exports at $16.09 billion and the value of ag imports at $15.99 billion, yielding a trade balance of about $99 million for the month. Through November, the calendar year 2023 agricultural trade deficit is about $19.9 billion.

The Department of Commerce/Bureau of the Census estimated the value of dairy product exports at $624 million in November, up 1% from October. Calendar year (January-November 2023) exports were estimated at $7.4 billion, down 16% from the $8.8 billion during the same period a year earlier.

November dairy product imports were valued at $441 million, down 4% from October. Year-to-date calendar year imports were valued at $4.9 billion, up 3% from January-November 2022. November cheese imports totaled $169 million, with year-to-date calendar year imports estimated at $1.6 billion, a 12% increase over the same period in 2022.

Read also: November dairy, ag exports yield mixed results

GDT index increases again

The price index of dairy product prices sold on the Global Dairy Trade (GDT) platform increased in an auction held Jan. 16. Compared to the previous auction, prices for individual product categories were mostly higher, led by a 5.8% jump in the price for butter. Others posting smaller price increases were anhydrous milkfat, cheddar cheese, lactose, skim milk powder and whole milk powder. Only mozzarella declined, down 3.3%.

The GDT platform offers dairy products from several global companies: Fonterra (New Zealand), Darigold, Valley Milk and Dairy America (U.S.), Amul (India), Arla (Denmark), Arla Foods Ingredients (Denmark) and Polish Dairy (Poland). The next GDT auction is Feb. 6.

Coming up

The USDA’s December 2023 Milk Production report is released a little later this month. Look for estimates on Jan. 24, along with a dairy product cold storage update. Monthly cattle slaughter estimates are released Jan. 25, and the Ag Prices report, including December the Dairy Margin Coverage (DMC) program margin and potential indemnity payments, will be released on Jan. 31. Check the Progressive Dairy website for updates.