The USDA’s monthly World Ag Supply and Demand Estimates (WASDE) report was released April 11.

Schmitz audrey
Editor / Progressive Dairy

Milk production, prices

The milk production forecast for 2024 was lowered from last month due to slower expected growth in milk output per cow while cow numbers are also unchanged from last month.

  • At 226.4 billion pounds, the 2023 milk production estimate was unchanged 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 price were unchanged. The 2023 Class III price was unchanged at $17.02 per hundredweight (cwt). The 2023 Class IV price estimate was also unchanged at $19.12 per cwt. The all-milk price for 2023 was unchanged at $20.48 per cwt.

  • In its forecast for 2024, the USDA estimated milk production at 226.3 billion pounds, down 1 billion pounds from a month earlier and is 100 million pounds lower from 2023’s total of 226.4 billion pounds.

Based on strong demand and recent price strength, the 2024 butter price forecast was raised, while cheese, 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 lowered 95 cents to $16.20 per cwt and the Class IV price was raised 30 cents to $20.40 per cwt. The all-milk price was lowered 35 cents to $20.90 per cwt.

Beef outlook

For 2024, the beef production forecast was raised from last month due to heavier weights and higher slaughter. 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 $185 per cwt, with prices reaching $190 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 called for greater corn used for ethanol and feed and residual use and smaller ending stocks.

Corn used for ethanol is raised 25 million bushels to 5.4 billion based on data through February from the Grain Crushings and Co-Products Production report and weekly ethanol production data as reported by the Energy Information Administration for the month of March. Feed and residual use is increased 25 million to 5.7 billion based on indicated disappearance during the December-February quarter. With no supply changes and use rising, ending stocks are lowered 50 million bushels to 2.1 billion bushels.

At $4.70 per bushel, the projected season-average corn price received by producers was lowered a nickel from the March forecast and is down $1.84 (28%) from the 2022-23 average of $6.54 per bushel.

  • Soybeans: This month’s 2023-24 U.S. soybean outlook includes lower imports, residual and exports, and higher ending stocks.

Soybean trade is reduced on pace to date and expectations for future shipments. With the trade changes and slightly lower residual, soybean ending stocks are raised 25 million bushels to 340 million.

The 2023-24 U.S. season-average soybean price received by producers was forecast at $12.55 per bushel, down a dime 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 about 2.3 million bales from 2022-23. Based on average lint-seed ratios, that translates into lower cottonseed supplies.

  • The WASDE and April 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 $278 per ton in February, while all alfalfa hay prices averaged $189 per ton and prices for other hay averaged $170 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 $30 per ton in January, the slimmest gap since the first quarter of 2021.