Sunday, May 28, 2023

USA Milk Production - What is Going on?

Is the U.S. milk production growing or shrinking?  Which states are increasing production, and which are shrinking?  April 2023 milk production showed almost no growth compared to the prior year.  How did the major milk production states fare?

This post will review the long-term and short-term trends and the movement of milk production from one state to another.  The data used in these tables and charts are based on the most recent data through April 2023.  

The two Tables below rank the size of the six largest milk producing states. These six states produce the majority of U.S. milk. Table I ranks the six largest states based on the number of dairy cows.  Table II ranks the six largest states based on milk production.  California is by far the largest state in terms of cows and milk production, making up 18% of the total U.S. milk production.  Wisconsin is in second place. From there, Idaho, Texas, and New York are closely ranked in cows and milk production.

Pennsylvania is ranked sixth in cows but does not make the Table II list ranking milk production.  Michigan takes sixth place in milk production.  Michigan has the highest monthly milk producing cows with 2248 pounds of milk per cow.  Pennsylvania cows produced 1835 pounds per cow in the same timeframe,

Table I

Table II

The next set of tables ranks the state's growth in cows over the last five years (long-term) and the last 12 months (short-term). Over the last five years, the cow population in Texas has grown consistently now rivaling Idaho for third place in cow population and milk production.  However, Texas did not even make the list for their growth in the last12 months.  

South Dakota has seen a tremendous 58% growth in the last five years and is still growing.  Colorado and Kansas are also growing significantly.  What is behind the growth in these states?  All the growing states have new and enlarged cheese plants that are recruiting milk suppliers.  Texas producers are supplying multiple large cheese plants and have grown in the last five years.  As milk production was forced to leave New Mexico some moved to Texas.  Apparently, there is now enough milk to meet the requirements as there is very little Texas expansion in the last 12 months.

The growth can best be explained as chasing the cheese plants.  In-other-words, the cows and milk production follow where the cheese production is expanding or moving. 

Table III
Table IV
Tables V and VI show where the cows are moving from.  Florida, which has always been the smallest Federal Order, has further decreased production by 25% over the last five year.  The decrease in production has continued in the last 12 months. Florida and Arizona are both dependent on Class I fluid milk which is declining.

New Mexico has suffered financial issues and have been dealt a blow with contaminated water.  It is continuing to reduce the cow population.

Wisconsin over the last 12 months has seen a slight decrease in cow numbers.  More information on Wisconsin is covered later in the post.

Pennsylvania has a 27-month continuous decrease in cows and milk production.

Table V
Table VI
Charts I through VII below cover the growth or decline of milk production in the U.S. and in the largest six milk producing states listed in Tables I and II above.

The following seven charts are listed in the order of their size. The total USA chart indicates a slowing growth of milk production.  The state charts are also generally showing long-term decreasing levels of milk production. In April 2023, the most recent month available, they are showing negative to minimal growth.   California, the largest dairy state continues to lose milk production.  Wisconsin had good growth in 2021 but beginning with 2022 production increases have dropped to just 0.4% annually.  Some of this milk production has moved to South Dakota which has new and expanded cheese production.  Idaho and New York are maintaining their levels.  Michigan is showing increases in 2023, up from significant decreases in 2022.

Is there enough milk to meet both domestic and export demand?  More on that in an upcoming post to this blog. 
Chart I - USA 

Chart II - California

Chart III - Wisconsin

Chart IV - Idaho

Chart V - Texas

Chart VI - New York

Chart VII - Michigan


For the last two years, milk production has grown at less than one percent.  The six largest producing states have a five-year decreasing trend.  Where is the milk going?   Fluid milk is declining but cheese is a larger share of the pie and has been increasing in consumption.  Butter consumption has been increasing.  The next post will quantify how consumption of dairy is currently doing.