The USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) released its Agricultural Prices report March 28, which includes feed costs used to calculate February Dairy Margin Coverage (DMC) program margins and indemnity payments. A bump in the all milk price and depressed feed costs brought the average milk income margin to $9.44 per hundredweight (cwt).

Coyne jenn
Editor / Progressive Dairy

A look at February 2024 DMC

DMC program margin factors compared to the previous month:

  • Alfalfa hay: $278 per ton, up $4 from January 2024
  • Corn: $4.36 per bushel, down 38 cents
  • Soybean meal: $363.63 per ton, down $14.77
  • Total feed costs: $11.16
  • Milk price: $20.60
  • Margin above feed cost: $9.44

Source: USDA Farm Service Agency, National Ag Statistics Service and Ag Marketing Service, March 28, 2024

Milk prices improve in most states

The February 2024 announced U.S. average all-milk price of $20.60 is 50 cents higher than January, but $1 lower than February 2023.

Most of the 24 major dairy states saw a bump in milk price. The largest climbs were recorded in Wisconsin ($1 per cwt higher than January), Minnesota and South Dakota (both 90 cents per cwt), and Oregon (80 cents per cwt). Only five states recorded prices remaining stagnant or having declined. Those included Indiana and Ohio at no price change, and Virginia (down 40 cents per cwt from January), and Florida and Georgia (both down 30 cents per cwt).

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Compared to last year, February 2024’s U.S. average milk price was down $1 per cwt, led by declines of $1 per cwt or more in Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, Ohio, Oregon, South Dakota, Virginia and Wisconsin.

Feed prices continue to lower

National average costs for major feedstuffs were down from January in two of the three categories used to calculate feed costs.

  • At $4.36 per bushel, the average price for corn was down a remarkable 38 cents from the previous month.
  • The average cost of soybean meal also declined from $378.40 per ton to $363.63 per ton.
  • The February average price for dairy-quality alfalfa hay was up $4 from a month earlier at $278 per ton.

The DMC feed cost for each month is calculated by summing three numbers: (1) the corn price per bushel times 1.0728; plus (2) the soybean meal price per ton times 0.00735; plus (3) the alfalfa hay price per ton times 0.0137.

February feedstuff prices yielded an average DMC total feed cost of $11.16 per cwt of milk sold, down 46 cents from January.

Indemnity payments triggered

At $9.44 per cwt, the February DMC margin triggers Tier I indemnity payments of 6 cents per cwt for producers that elected the $9.50 per cwt coverage level. This results in $43.81 for each 1 million pounds covered.

All 2024 DMC indemnity payments are subject to a 5.7% sequestration deduction.

Looking ahead: Enrollment ends and payments

Enrollment for the 2024 DMC program began Feb. 28 and will run through April 29. Producers are encouraged to enroll in the program if they have not yet done so.

Read: 2024 DMC program enrollment to begin Feb. 28

As of March 28, the March DMC margin was forecast at $9.97 per cwt, which would not trigger any indemnity payments, despite a sharp drop in milk prices and marginally higher feed costs earlier in the month. Margins are expected to improve for the remainder of 2024, yet markets change. The actual February margin will be announced April 30.