At first glance, the negative numbers on milk production for February might appear to be impressive in what could be the last report of its type from the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS).
But they need to be recalculated in light of the fact that this year's numbers are for a month of 28 days are compared to those for a 29-day month in February of 2012.
Even with one less day, Wisconsin's dairy herd managed to produce a bit more milk - 7 million pounds - in February of this year than during the month in 2012.
This year's total was 2.159 billion pounds, representing an approximate 3.5 percent increase rather than the official "no change" in the NASS report, which is now being discontinued at least through September because of the federal budget sequester.
According to the NASS report, milk production in the top 23 states during February was down by 3 percent compared to a year ago. When daily production is tabulated, however, the average production in those 23 states was 522.78 million pounds per day this year compared to 522.51 million pounds last year.
For all states during February, daily milk production was up by .1 percent compared to a year ago.
Similarly in Wisconsin, the average daily production in February was 77.1 million pounds this year compared to 74.2 million pounds in 2012.
In effect, the state's dairy cows posted a 3.9-percent daily increase although the average milk per cow (also subject to the one-day correction) was officially reported to be 1,700 pounds for the month - the same as for 29 days in February of 2012.
In a statistic which includes dry cows, Wisconsin dairy cows averaged 60.71 pounds of milk per day this year in February compared to 58.62 pounds in February last year.
The increase of 4,000 head in Wisconsin's number of milk cows to 1.27 million was a small contributor to the state's actual higher production for the month this year.
As of March 1, Wisconsin had 11,096 dairy herds licensed to ship milk to the commercial market. This was down by 23 from a month earlier and by 576 from the beginning of March in 2012.
Among the top 10 milk production states, after recalculation for the difference in days, California was down by approximately 4.5 percent for February compared to a year ago.
This was due largely to the daily average drop in milk per cow to 64.6 pounds from 67.75 pounds in February of 2012 because California's cow numbers were down by only 2,000 head to 1.782 million.
Because of small gains in both average milk per cow and cow numbers, Michigan also managed to have an actual milk production increase to 705 million pounds in the February comparisons.
Other states in the top 10 with daily increases were Minnesota, New York, and Pennsylvania while Texas, New Mexico, and Idaho were down between 1 and 2 percent per day.
With 8.5 million cows in the top 23 states, which account for about 93 percent of milk production, the number of head was down by 13,000 from a year ago - equal to the decline in New Mexico. Pennsylvania was down by 7,000 head but Wisconsin and Michigan combined to add 7,000 cows compared to a year ago.
Whether the February milk production statistics were properly interpreted or not, prices for Cheddar cheese blocks and barrels and Grade A non-fat dry milk all rose by two cents per pound in the spot market at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange on Wednesday of this week.
Prices of Class III milk futures for the middle months of this year increased by about double the equivalent value of the price gain for the commodities.
Four carload sales of Cheddar blocks and an unfilled bid to buy eight carloads highlighted the spot market on Wednesday. The Cheddar barrel market had one carload sale and one unfilled bid as the day's prices closed at $1.64 and $1.62 per pound respectively for blocks and barrels.
The AA butter spot market price remained at $1.70 per pound although the there was an uncovered offer to sell and an unfilled bid to buy one carload. The Grade A non-fat dry milk spot market price rose to $1.52 per pound as result of an unfilled bid to buy two carloads while Grade Extra held at $1.56.
A bit of price strength was also evident in the dry whey futures market. Trading prices near the end of the session stood at 61 cents per pound for March and at between 54.625 and 58 cents for all remaining months of 2013 after gains in most of them during the day.
The Class III milk futures tacked on 48 cents per hundred for June, 53 cents for July, 51 cents for August, and 37 cents for September during the trading session on Wednesday.
Prices near the close of the session stood at $16.95 per hundred for March, $17.53 for April, $18.32 for May, and in the $19s per hundred for all months from June through October in 2013. The June and July futures were more than $1 higher than a week earlier.
Earlier this week, Cooperatives Working Together announced the receipt of 24 bids from Dairy Farmers of America, Foremost Farms USA, United Dairymen of Arizona, Darigold of Washington, the Maryland and Virginia Milk Producers Cooperative, the Michigan Milk Producers Association, and Upstate Niagara O-AT-KA.
The bids were for financial assistance on the export of 2.701 million pounds of butter and 2.74 million pounds of Cheddar and Monterey Jack cheese to countries in Europe, Asia, North Africa, and the Middle East. Deliveries are scheduled from April to September.