U.S. milk production fell about 1% compared to the same month last year, according to the USDA’s preliminary May Milk Production report, released June 21. 

Schmitz audrey
Editor / Progressive Dairy

May 2023-24 dairy recap at a glance

Reviewing the USDA preliminary estimates for May 2024 compared to May 2023:

  • U.S. milk production: 19.68 billion pounds, down 0.9%
  • U.S. cow numbers: 9.35 million, down 68,000 head
  • U.S. average milk per cow: 2,105 pounds, down 3 pounds
  • 24-state milk production: 18.875 billion pounds, down 0.7%
  • 24-state cow numbers: 8.893 million, down 52,000 head
  • 24-state average milk per cow: 2,122 pounds, down 3 pounds

Source: USDA Milk Production report, June 21, 2024

Cow numbers lower

May 2024 U.S. cow numbers were estimated at 9.35 million head, down 68,000 from a year earlier. However, preliminary estimates indicate the herd has been building slightly and is now the largest since October 2023. April’s preliminary estimate was raised by 5,000 head.

The trend is similar in the 24 major dairy states, where May 2024 cow numbers were estimated at 8.893 million, down 52,000 from May 2023 but up 5,000 from the revised estimate for April 2024 (Table 1) and also the largest number since December 2023.



Compared to a year earlier, seven states had more cows than May one year ago; 14 states had fewer cows. South Dakota and Florida led all states in year-over-year growth, up a combined 27,000 head in May. That was more than offset by a 42,000-head reduction in New Mexico alone.

Milk output per cow lower

With one additional production day compared to April, the national average in monthly milk output per cow increased in May 2024 but decreased from May 2023. Among major states, the average year-to-year change was down 3 pounds.

Affected by regional weather factors, high feed costs and tight income margins, variation among those states was wide (Table 2).


Florida, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Iowa and Kansas showed per-cow output increased 15-30 pounds per month compared to the same month a year ago, while monthly production in California, Vermont, Pennsylvania and Indiana declined by 15-25 pounds.

Milk production lower

The preliminary estimate of overall May 2024 milk production was lower than the same month a year earlier.

Six states boosted production a combined 76 million pounds; 16 states reduced production a combined 237 million pounds. Year-over-year growth leaders were South Dakota (up 39 million pounds), Florida (up 18 million pounds) and Iowa (up 10 million pounds).

The states posting largest volume declines were New Mexico (down 89 million pounds), California (down 55 million pounds), Georgia (down 15 million pounds), Arizona (down 11 million pounds) and Kansas (down 10 million pounds).

Florida was the milk percentage growth leader for May 2024, up 10.53% from May 2023, with South Dakota following at 10.24%. May 2024 production was down 14.71% from a year earlier in New Mexico, 8.29% in Georgia and 3.59% in Vermont.

The USDA revised the April 2024 milk production estimate slightly lower. With the revisions, U.S. production was down about 0.6% from April 2023, with major-state output down 0.4%.