U.S. Milk Production Drops 0.2 Percent in March, California Reduces Output By 3.8 Percent

April 16, 2009 07:00 PM

California's financially stressed dairy producers reduced their output last month by a sizeable 3.8 percent – or 140 million pounds of milk -- from March 2008, according to a report released today by USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS).


Milk production in the 23 major states during March totaled 15.2 billion pounds, a decline of 0.2 percent from March 2008, NASS said. Production per cow in the 23 major states averaged 1,788 pounds for March, six pounds below March 2008.


The report's nationwide numbers show "a major shift in the five-year production trend,” said Tiffany LaMendola, director of economic analysis for Western United Dairymen, a California-based trade group.


"It's the first time the nation has seen year-over-year declines in production and in cow numbers since October 2004,” LaMendola said. "The financial strain is now showing.”


California, however, has seen year-over-year production declines for the past eight consecutive months, except for September, said LaMendola. Heavy cow culling and reduced feeding rations "in response to dire economic conditions” have led to lower production, she said. Supply management programs implemented by several California dairy processors have also contributed to the state's reduced milk output.


The number of milk cows on farms in the 23 major states reached 8.48 million head last month, 15,000 head more than March 2008, but 4,000 head less than February 2009.


"I wasn't totally surprised by the report, although with the heavy cow culling that took place in January and February, I expected a modestly higher cow number in the range of 6,000 to 8,000,” said Peter Vitaliano, vice president of economic policy and market research for National Milk Producers Federation.


California's dairy cow numbers decreased by 20,000 last month to 1.822 million head, while per-cow milk production fell by 55 pounds to 1,920 pounds.


Even so, the Golden State continues to lead the nation in milk production. With 3.498 billion pounds produced in March 2009, the Golden State led No. 2 Wisconsin by more than 1.38 billion pounds.


Texas showed the biggest percentage increase in production, climbing 8.4 percent over the March 2008 level to 796 million pounds.


Kansas showed the second-highest percentage jump in milk output, rising 7.8 percent to 222 million pounds.


Read the report at: http://usda.mannlib.cornell.edu/MannUsda/viewDocumentInfo.do?documentID=1103.


Catherine Merlo is Western editor for Dairy Today. You can reach her at cmerlo@farmjournal.com.


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