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CHICAGO, IL

Wisconsin's milk production continued its year-long surge, including another 4.8 percent increase in December compared to a year ago, according to the report for the month issued by the National Agricultural Statistics Service last week Friday.

The state's milk production for the month was 2.477 billion pounds, putting its unofficial total for 2015 at 28.954 billion pounds. That's nearly a 4.17 percent increase from the 27.795 billion pounds in 2014 and, with the addition of Leap Day in February, gives the state a chance at 30 billion pounds of milk production during 2016 if an average increase of 3.4 percent is sustained throughout the year.

Wisconsin's milk production record for 2015 was based mainly on the continuing uptick in average milk per cow. For December, the average of 1,935 pounds per cow was 80 pounds more than during the month a year earlier. The state's estimate of 1.28 million dairy cows for December was up by 6,000 head from a year ago.

National statistics

Led by Wisconsin and other states in the Upper Midwest, the national milk production for December managed a .7-percent increase compared to a year ago. This was the 5th consecutive month with less than a 1 percent increase.

For all of 2015, milk production in the United States was a record high 208.494 billion pounds, which was a 1.2 percent increase from 2014. With an average number of 9.315 million dairy cows during the year, the average milk per cow was 22,383 pounds. The number of cows was up by 58,000 from 2014 and the average milk per cow was up by 125 pounds for 2015.

Among the top 23 milk production states for December, Michigan also posted an increase of 4.8 percent to a total of 876 million pounds. Minnesota was up by 2.9 percent to 807 million pounds, and Indiana by 3.6 percent to 348 million pounds, and Iowa by 2 percent to 411 million pounds.

New York joined that group with an increase of 3.5 percent to 1.203 billion pounds. Idaho was the only other state above 1 billion pounds with its December total of 1.168 billion pounds — an increase of 1.1 percent. South Dakota had the highest percentage increase of 13 for December on its milk production of 209 million pounds.

California downturn

With average milk per cow continuing to fall, California's production total for December dropped by 3 percent to 3.366 billion pounds. The average milk per cow was down by 55 pounds to 1,895 for the month but cow numbers were down by only 4,000 to 1.776 million. This was the 13th consecutive month for a cutback in California's milk production.

Other states with milk production decreases in the December comparisons were Arizona (2.3 percent), Virginia (3.3 percent), Utah (1.6 percent), and Kansas (1.5 percent). There was no change in Pennsylvania and Ohio.

The early effects of the late December 'Goliath' blizzard in Texas and New Mexico were noticeable in the month's statistics. Milk production was down by 3 percent to 853 million pounds in Texas and by 6.2 percent to 624 million pounds in New Mexico.

Dairy cow losses

The loss of 10s of thousands of dairy cows during the storm in those two states resulted in a one-time special disaster payment of $4.5 million to dairy farmers in the three cooperatives that are members of the Greater Southwest Agency.

Payments were calculated on a projected 85 percent of milk production. Members in those states and Kansas were assessed 43 cents per hundred on their milk shipments in order to raise funds for the payment.

On the voluntary culling of dairy cows, the United States Department of Agriculture reported that 2.914 million head were sent to federally inspected slaughter plants during 2015. This was as increase of 98,500 or 3.5 percent from 2014 although the December comparisons showed a 2,000 head decrease for 2015.

Spot market prices

After falling during the last three trading days last week, Cheddar cheese prices in the spot market on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange stabilized through Wednesday of this week. With per pound prices holding at $1.46 for blocks and $1.43 for barrels, no carload sales were made during the first three days of this week.

The opposite was true in the spot market for Grade A non-fat dry milk, which had 18 carload sales at the first three sessions this week. Two of those sales were on Wednesday, when the price rose by 1.25 cent to 71.25 cents per pound.

AA butter tacked on 1 cent as a result of an unfilled bid for one carload to close at $2.20 per pound on Wednesday. Six carloads were sold earlier in the week.

Dairy futures markets

Without any prompting from cheese prices, the Class III milk futures posted respective per hundred increases of 18 and 19 cents for February and March in trading as of early Wednesday afternoon. Prices were still in the high $13s per hundred for the first four months of 2016, in the $14s for May through July, and in the $15s per hundred for all subsequent months through June of 2017.

In the dry whey futures, single trades on Wednesday morning lopped at least 4 cents per pound off the previous prices for eight months during 2017, leaving the prices at or close to 27 cents per pound. They stood in the range of 23 to 26 cents per pound for most months in 2016.

The national Class I fluid milk base price for February is $13.64 per hundred. This is a decline of $2.40 from January. For February of 2015, the Class I base price was $16.24 per hundred.

On Monday of this week, Cooperatives Working Together announced the receipt of bids from Dairy Farmers of America, Northwest Dairy Association (Darigold), and Tillamook County Creamery of Oregon for financial support on eight contracts to export 921,532 pounds of Cheddar cheese and 663,592 pounds of whole milk powder. Buyers in Asia, North Africa, and South America are scheduled to receive shipments until July.

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