U.S. milk output shot sharply higher in May, hitting a record 19.85 billion pounds, according to the USDA’s preliminary data.
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That’s up 4.6% from May 2020, and the biggest month-to-month increase since March 2006, thanks to good weather, increased cow numbers, and increased milk per cow.

It was the 12th month in a row to top year ago output and up a hefty 4.1% from May 2019. May output in the top 24 producing states hit 18.9 billion pounds, up 4.9%.

Keep in mind a year ago the nation was coping with the COVID pandemic, which had caused dairy product prices to plunge due to shuttered restaurants and a drop in foodservice demand, creating havoc throughout the entire food chain. In addition, many dairy farmers faced milk production restrictions mandated by their cooperatives.

Revisions added 45 million pounds to the April 50-state estimate, now put at 19.34 billion pounds, up 3.5% from a year ago, instead of the originally reported 3.3%.

May cow numbers were up for the 11th consecutive month, totaling 9.5 million head in the 50 states, up 145,000 from May 2020. May numbers were up 5,000 from the April count, which, with USDA revisions, was up an astounding 26,000 head from March.

May output per cow averaged 2,088 pounds, up 61 pounds or 3% from 2020.

California cows added 179 million pounds or 5.0% more milk in the tank than a year ago, thanks to a 105-pound gain per cow, but 1,000 fewer cows. Wisconsin output was up 144 million pounds or 5.6%, on an 85-pound gain per cow and 17,000 more cows.

Idaho was up 2.7%, on 10,000 more cows and 25 pounds more per cow. Michigan was up 5.1%, on 17,000 more cows and a 25-pound gain per cow.

Minnesota was up 6% on 19,000 more cows and a 30-pound gain per cow. New Mexico was also up 6%, on a 110-pound gain per cow and 2,000 more cows.

New York put in a 4.2% increase on an 80-pound gain per cow and 2,000 more cows.

Oregon was up 0.9% on 1,000 more cows but output per cow was unchanged. Pennsylvania was up 1.8%, despite a drop of 8,000 cows, helped by a 65-pound gain in milk per cow.

South Dakota posted the biggest gain again, up 14.6%, on 19,000 more cows and a 5-pound gain per cow. Indiana was up 12.6%, thanks to 20,000 more cows and a 20-pound per cow gain, and Texas scored the third biggest increase, up 10.8%, on an eye-popping 32,000 more cows and a 105-pound gain per cow. Texas may be challenging Idaho and New York as the nation’s No. 3 milk producer.

Washington state was one of only three states showing a decline in milk output, down 0.9%, on 2,000 fewer cows, and a 5-pound drop per cow.

Stocks growing

The nation’s dairy stocks are growing. The Agriculture Department’s latest Cold Storage report showed May 31 butter stocks totaled a whopping 401.8 million pounds, up 15.6 million pounds or 4.0% above April and a weighty 26 million pounds or 6.9% above those on May 31, 2020.

American type cheese climbed to 830.7 million pounds, up 4 million or 0.5% from the April level, which was revised down 4.1 million pounds from last month’s report, and were 10.7 million pounds or 1.3% above a year ago.

The “other” cheese category saw stocks jump to 612.8 million pounds, up 11.9 million pounds or 2% from April, and 2.9 million or 0.5% above a year ago.

The total cheese inventory stood at 1.465 billion pounds, up 16.6 million pounds or 1.1% from April and 10.8 million pounds or 0.7% above a year ago.

Prices falling

Mid-June dairy prices weakened and last week was a bit lean on fodder for the markets. The May Milk Production was to be released Friday afternoon after the markets had finished trading, but was delayed until Monday, in observance of the Juneteenth federal holiday.

The CME Cheddar blocks closed Friday at $1.4925 per pound, down 0.75 cents on the week and $1.1575 below a year ago. The barrels finished at $1.5425, down 13 cents, lowest since April 6, 74.25 cents below a year ago, and 5 cents above the block. There were 14 sales of block on the week and 42 of barrel.

The blocks gave up 2 cents Monday on a trade but regained a quarter-cent Tuesday on an unfilled bid, hitting $1.4750, as traders weighed the May milk production data and awaited the afternoon’s Cold Storage report.

The barrels lost 6.25 cents Monday and were down a penny Tuesday to $1.47, lowest since March 26, and back below the blocks for the first time since May 18.

Milk remains plentiful in the Midwest despite temperatures hitting the 90-degree mark, according to Dairy Market News. Some cheesemakers said plentiful was an understatement, and are operating at maximum capacity. The barrel price sitting atop the block price was not viewed favorably.

Retail and foodservice cheese demand in the West held steady last week and export demand increased, particularly from Asian markets, as prices fell. Cheesemakers are running full schedules to take advantage of the available milk, says DMN.

Butter closed the week at $1.7850 per pound, down 0.75 cents and 6.50 cents below a year ago, on 17 sales.

Monday’s butter was unchanged but it lost 3.75 cents Tuesday, melting to $1.7475.

Midwest butter producers are staying busy, as cream is plentiful. Retail butter demand has slowed but is meeting seasonal expectations. Some butter plant managers continue to say that foodservice sales are better than expected.

Plenty of cream is available in the West though contacts report that widespread transportation issues were creating delivery delays. Lots of cream is flowing into Class II and III production to support growing cream cheese demand and steady to strong ice cream orders. Retail demand remains soft but foodservice orders are healthy. Dine-in restrictions were lifted in California last week, and contacts expect that will provide an additional boost to demand in the next few weeks.

Grade A nonfat dry milk fell to $1.25 per pound last Thursday, lowest since April 21, but closed Friday at $1.2650, down 3.50 cents on the week and 23.25 cents above a year ago. There were 19 sales reported last week.

Traders took the powder down a penny Monday but inched it back up a quarter-cent Tuesday to $1.2575.

CME dry whey fell to 59.25 cents per pound last Wednesday, lowest since March 12, but closed Friday at 61 cents per pound, down 1.75 cents on the week but 28.25 cents above a year ago. Only 2 cars were sold on the week.

Monday’s whey was unchanged but it lost 2 cents Tuesday, dipping to 59 cents per pound, lowest since March 5.

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

Nominations are open for Fonterra’s board election but a repeat of the drama that rocked the vote three years ago can be ruled out.

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