Milk is flowing in the U.S. but perhaps not as much as might have been thought. The Agriculture Department’s preliminary data reports U.S. output in the first month of 2021 totaled 19.2 billion pounds, up a somewhat bullish 1.6% from January 2020.

Output in the top 24 states amounted to 18.3 billion pounds, up 1.8%.

Revisions reduced the original December total by 90 million pounds to 18.85 billion pounds, up 2.6% from December 2019, instead of the 3.1% increase originally reported.

January cow numbers increased for the seventh consecutive month, totaling 9.45 million head in the 50 states, up 8,000 from December’s count, which was revised down 1,000 head. The January herd was up 85,000 from January 2020.

January output per cow averaged 2,029 pounds, up 13 pounds or 0.6% from a year ago.

The report showed 2020 total milk output at 223 billion pounds, up 2.2% from 2019, with cow numbers at 9.39 million head, up 0.5% from 2019.

California’s January output was down 0.7% from a year ago on a 10-pound loss per cow and 4,000 fewer cows. The Golden State’s December total was revised 77 million pounds lower, resulting in a 0.5% drop from December 2019, instead of the originally reported 3.2% increase.

Wisconsin was up 3.1% in January, on a 60-pound gain per cow and 2,000 more cows.

Idaho was off 0.3%, on a 10-pound drop per cow, though cow numbers were up 1,000 head.

Michigan was up 4.3%, on a 30 pound gain per cow and 13,000 more cows. Minnesota was up 5.7%, on a 55-pound gain per cow and 12,000 more cows, and New Mexico was up 1.4%, on a 5-pound gain per cow and 4,000 more cows milked than a year ago.

New York was up 0.7%, thanks to a 15-pound gain per cow. Cow numbers were unchanged. Oregon was down 1.3% on 2,000 fewer cows but output per cow was up 5 pounds. Pennsylvania was off 0.1%, on a drop of 5,000 cows, though output per cow was up 15 pounds.

Indiana took the honors for the biggest gain, up 10.1%, but South Dakota was right behind, up 9.6%, on 13,000 more cows and 10 more pounds per cow. Texas was up 5.3%, on 30,000 more cows and 5 more pounds per cow.

Vermont was again one of nine states showing a decline, down 2.7% on 4,000 fewer cows, though output per cow was up 5 pounds.

Washington state was down 1.9% on 4,000 less cows, and output per cow down 10 pounds.

Lots of product

There’s still plenty of dairy product in the cooler. The January Cold Storage report shows U.S. butter stocks grew to 328.4 million pounds, up a whopping 54.6 million pounds or 19.9% from December and 81 million pounds or 32.7% above January 2020, 19th consecutive month they topped the year ago level.

American type cheese slipped to 800.8 million pounds, down 90,000 pounds or 0.1% from December but 21.1 million pounds or 2.7% above a year ago.

The “other” cheese climbed to 576.3 million pounds, up 1.6 million pounds or 0.3% from December and 25.3 million pounds or 4.6% above a year ago.

The total cheese inventory amounted to 1.398 billion pounds, up 2.3 million pounds from December and 44.9 million pounds or 3.3% above a year ago.

Weather woes

Winter weather has hit the USA hard, especially in Texas, where over 4 million people were without electricity and temperatures fell to record lows in some parts.

HighGround Dairy reported that regulators were prioritizing electricity access to residential areas and balancing surging demand as people heat homes with significant generation loss. Natural gas-powered plants were offline, wind turbines were frozen solid and solar panels were covered in snow.

Impacts were significant on dairy farms and processing plants over the weekend, according to HGD. “Milk production and collection was impacted in the Texas panhandle and in other parts of the state as record low temperatures created significant on-farm complications. Processing plants were shut down, as utilities restricted electricity and natural gas availability to industrial users. Milk dumping was prevalent across the state,” according to HGD.

Butter climb ends

Last week’s Global Dairy Trade auction propelled CME butter higher in the President’s Day holiday-shortened week and added to the previous week’s 12.75-cent gain. The price jumped 6 cents last Tuesday, 4 cents Thursday, and 5.50 cents Friday, closing at $1.55 per pound, up 15.50 cents on the week, highest since Sept. 22, 2020, but 26 cents below a year ago. Only 9 sales were reported on the week.

The butter gave back 4 cents Monday and was down 2.25 cents Tuesday, slipping to $1.4875.

This is the last week that old crop butter can be brought to the spot market. Central butter production is strong due to seasonal demand and the current availability of cream, says Dairy Market News, and churning was notably active. The weather situation in the southern U.S. had some Midwestern butter producers taking on cream that would otherwise lack a destination.

Western butter makers report demand for bulk and print butter is higher compared to the last few months. Retail sales have picked up but inventories are heavy and old crop butter is readily available.

Cheese was unchanged last Tuesday but headed south from there. The Cheddar blocks fell to $1.51 per pound Thursday, lowest since May 12, 2020, but regained 2.75 cents Friday to close at $1.5375, down 2 cents on the week and 23 cents below a year ago.

The barrels finished 7.75 cents lower, at $1.4125, 17.75 cents below a year ago; 7 cars of block traded hands last week and 26 of barrel.

The blocks tacked on 3.25 cents Monday, hitting $1.57, and stayed there Tuesday. The barrels were unchanged Monday but lost 3 cents Tuesday, slipping to $1.3825, 18.75 cents below the blocks.

Cheese market tones remain uncertain, says DMN, though demand is strong, according to a growing number of Midwestern producers, as more areas are lifting dining restrictions at restaurants and bars.

The western cheese market appears to be in the same holding pattern that it has been in the last few months. Manufacturers report that milk is ample and are running plants at or near full capacity.

Grade A nonfat dry milk was down 2 cents last week, finishing at $1.0925 per pound, 7.75 cents below a year ago, with 17 sales for the shortened week.

Monday’s powder moved up 0.50 cents but then backed down 0.75 cents Tuesday to $1.09.

CME dry whey climbed to 55 cents per pound last Wednesday, highest since Oct. 19, 2018, but closed Friday at 54.75 cents per pound, up 0.50 cents on the week and 17.75 cents above a year ago. Only 2 sales were reported on the week.

The whey was unchanged Monday and Tuesday.

Class I down 34 cents

The March Federal order Class I base milk price was announced by the USDA at $15.20 per hundredweight, down 34 cents from February, $2.26 below March 2020, and equates to $1.34 per gallon, down from $1.50 a year ago. The three-month Class I average stands at $15.29, down from $18.01 a year ago.

Fluid sales up 1.5%

The plunge in fluid milk sales reversed direction in December. USDA’s latest data shows 4.0 billion pounds of packaged fluid products were sold, up 1.5% from December 2019, and followed a 4.4% drop in November.

Conventional product sales totaled 3.8 billion pounds, up 1.1% from a year ago. Organic products, at 253 million pounds, were up 8.9%, and represented 6.3% of total sales for the month.

Whole milk sales totaled 1.3 billion pounds, up 1.4% from a year ago. Sales for the year totaled 15.5 billion pounds, up 2.6% from 2019, and made up 33.5% of total milk sales for December and 33.6% for the year.

Skim milk sales, at 234 million pounds, were down 11.0% from a year ago and down 14.6% for the year.

Total packaged fluid milk sales, January through December, amounted to 46.2 billion pounds, down just 0.1% from 2019.

Conventional product sales totaled 43.3 billion pounds, down 0.7%.

Organic products, at 2.9 billion pounds, were up 10.4% and represented 6.2% of total fluid milk sales in 2020.

Columnist Lee Mielke wraps up the week’s dairy industry news.

Recommended for you