The USDA’s monthly World Ag Supply and Demand Estimates (WASDE) report was released March 8.

Schmitz audrey
Editor / Progressive Dairy

Milk production, prices

The milk production forecast for 2024 was lowered from last month due to lower cow inventories and lower expected output per cow.

  •  At 226.4 billion pounds, the 2023 milk production estimate was lowered 200 million pounds from last month’s report and would be virtually unchanged from 2022’s total of 226.4 billion pounds.

Based on revisions in production and cold storage data, cheese, butter, nonfat dry milk (NDM) and dry whey prices were unchanged. The projected 2023 Class III price was unchanged at $17.02 per hundredweight (cwt). The 2023 Class IV price forecast was also unchanged at $19.12 per cwt. The projected all milk price for 2023 was unchanged at $20.48 per cwt.

  • In its forecast for 2024, the USDA estimated milk production at 227.3 billion pounds, down 900 million pounds from a month earlier. If realized, 2024 production would be up about 0.4% from 2023. There’s an additional milking day in leap year.

Based on strong demand and recent price strength, the 2024 cheese and butter price forecasts were raised, while nonfat dry milk and whey price forecasts were lowered based on recent prices. Compared to a month ago, the projected Class III milk price was raised a nickel to $17.15 per cwt and the Class IV price was lowered a dime to $20.10 per cwt. The all-milk price was raised 30 cents to $21.25 per cwt.

Beef outlook

For 2024, the beef production forecast was raised from last month. Lower expected slaughter in the first quarter is more than offset by higher slaughter for outlying quarters. As these cattle are placed on feed in the first half of the year, they will likely be marketed and slaughtered in the second half.


For 2024, cattle prices were raised for all quarters based on recent prices and firm demand for fed cattle. The fed cattle price forecast for 2024 was estimated at $183 per cwt, with prices reaching $186 per cwt in the fourth quarter. The 2023 average was $175.54 per cwt.

Feed supply, price forecasts

The USDA’s WASDE reports provided potential insights into dairy feedstuff supplies and prices:

  • Corn: This month’s 2023-24 U.S. corn outlook and ending stocks were unchanged relative to last month.

At $4.75 per bushel, the projected season-average corn price received by producers was lowered a nickel from the February forecast but is down $1.79 (27%) from the 2022-23 average of $6.54 per bushel. 

  • Soybeans: This month’s 2023-24 U.S. soybean outlook is also unchanged relative to last month. While soybean crush is unchanged, the soybean meal extraction rate is increased slightly, and higher soybean meal exports are mostly offset by lower domestic use. Soybean exports are forecast at 1.72 billion bushels, unchanged from last month. 

The 2023-24 U.S. season-average soybean price received by producers was forecast at $12.65 per bushel, unchanged from last month’s forecast. It compares with an average price of $14.20 per bushel in 2022-23. Soybean meal prices were forecast to average $380 per ton, unchanged from last month’s forecast but $72 less than the 2022-23 average of $452 per ton.

As a predictor of cottonseed availability, 2023-24 harvested cotton acreage was forecast at 10.2 million acres, down more than 3.5 million acres from 2022-23. Cotton production is reduced to 12.1 million 480-pound bales, down 334,000 bales from 2022-23. Based on average lint-seed ratios, that translates into lower cottonseed supplies.

  • The WASDE and March Crop Production reports did not contain information on hay production or prices. The latest USDA Ag Prices report indicated dairy-quality alfalfa hay prices averaged $274 per ton in January, while all alfalfa hay prices averaged $202 per ton, and prices for other hay averaged $171 per ton.
The spread between U.S. average alfalfa and other hay prices – at more than $100 per ton last May and June – shrunk to $31 per ton in January, the slimmest gap since the first quarter of 2021.