On the surface, February 2024 U.S. milk production jumped more than 2.2% compared to the same month last year, according to the USDA’s February Milk Production report, released March 20. However, with February 2024 containing an extra day due to “leap year,” the adjusted number is closer to -1.1% on a daily basis.

Schmitz audrey
Editor / Progressive Dairy

February 2023-24 dairy recap at a glance

Reviewing the USDA preliminary estimates for February 2024 compared to February 2023 (without adjustments for leap day):

  • U.S. milk production: 18.1 billion pounds, up 2.2%
  • U.S. cow numbers: 9.33 million, down 89,000 head
  • U.S. average milk per cow: 1,941 pounds, up 60 pounds
  • 24-state milk production: 17.3 billion pounds, up 2.4%
  • 24-state cow numbers: 8.87 million, down 61,000 head
  • 24-state average milk per cow: 1,955 pounds, up 58 pounds

Source: USDA Milk Production report, March 20, 2024

Cow numbers lower

Based on preliminary February 2024 cow estimates, the U.S. dairy herd is now the smallest dating back to August 2019. February 2024 U.S. cow numbers were estimated at 9.33 million head, down 89,000 from a year earlier.

Compared to last month’s preliminary estimate, January cow numbers were reduced 5,000 head to 9.32 million head.


Among the 24 major dairy states, February 2024 cow numbers were estimated at 8.878 million, down 61,000 from February 2023 and up 5,000 from the revised estimate for January 2024 (Table 1). Cow numbers in those states are now the lowest since January 2022.


Six states had more cows than the year before; 13 states had fewer cows. South Dakota and Florida led all states in year-over-year growth, up a combined 26,000 head in February. That was more than offset by a 47,000-head reduction in Texas and New Mexico. Additionally, Texas’s dairy herd was up 10,000 head compared to January 2024.

Milk output per cow higher

As noted previously, leap day impacted monthly milk output per cow. February production was up more than 60 pounds (2.2%) per cow from a year earlier, with output up 70 pounds or more per cow per month in eight states (Table 2).

On a daily basis, however, the U.S. and major state actually decreased a quarter pound per day, a 1.1% decrease. Sixteen states saw daily production go down from a year earlier, while only eight states saw an increase.

Milk production higher

Without adjustments for leap day, the preliminary estimate of overall February 2024 milk production was higher than the same month a year earlier for the first time in eight months.

Twenty states boosted production while four states reduced production. Year-over-year growth leaders were Wisconsin, California, South Dakota and Texas. The states posting largest volume declines were New Mexico, Oregon and Georgia.

South Dakota was the milk percentage growth leader for February 2024, up 14.8% from February 2023 with Florida following at 8.97%. February 2024 production was down 9.87% from a year earlier in New Mexico, 6.97% in Oregon and 4.73% in Georgia.

The USDA revised the January 2024 milk production estimate slightly lower.