U.S. replacement dairy cow prices averaged $1,340 per head in October 2021, down $40 from revised estimates for July 2021 and unchanged from October 2020. The U.S. average price was still 37% per head less than the latest high of $2,120 per head in October 2014.
The USDA estimates are based on quarterly surveys (January, April, July and October) of dairy farmers in 24 major dairy states, as well as an annual survey (February) in all states. The prices reflect those paid or received for cows that have had at least one calf and are sold for replacement purposes, not as cull cows. The report does not summarize auction market prices.
When overlayed on USDA Milk Production reports, changes in average replacement prices were weakly correlated with trends in cow numbers. The major states saw dairy cow numbers drop by about 22,000 between August and September (the latest estimates available), with largest declines in New Mexico and Washington. As of September, U.S. cow numbers were down 85,000 head since peaking in May 2021 and were the lowest since December 2020.
Compared to the previous quarter, average replacement cow prices were down in 15 of 24 major dairy states tracked by the USDA (Table 1). Decreases of about $100 per head were reported for New Mexico and Oregon. Countering that, average prices were modestly higher in seven states, led by Texas and Utah, up $50 per head.
Cull cow prices dip in September
After hitting a four-year high in August, cull cow prices softened a bit in September, according to USDA’s latest Ag Prices report.
U.S. prices received for cull cows (beef and dairy, combined) averaged $72.90 per hundredweight (cwt) during the month, down about $3.10 from August. Despite the decline, the 2021 average is still $6.30 more than a year earlier and the highest for the month of September since 2016.
Through Oct. 16, weekly dairy cull cow slaughter at federally inspected plants had surpassed comparable weeks a year earlier for 19 consecutive weeks, reaching nearly 2.52 million head. During that 19-week period, dairy cow slaughter surpassed year-earlier totals by about 53,600 head.