More Dairy Cow Culling

Dairy cow culling has increased this year due to low milk prices causing unprofitable conditions for many dairies.  In fact, milk supplies in excess of processing ability has caused some milk to be dumped out instead of being used in some regions of the country.

Total dairy cow slaughter in the U.S. is up 5.5 percent (81,300 head) compared to last year.  Culling is higher in the big milk production regions of the country, including the Midwest (region 5) and the West Coast (regions 9 and 10) which are up 3.4, and 10.3 and 5.4 percent, respectively.  

Three regions concern Southern dairy producers, regions 3, 4, and 6.  Region 3 includes Virginia and Maryland but, those states are likely swamped in the data by Pennsylvania, one of the largest milk producing states in the country.  Dairy cow slaughter for region 3 also likely includes a lot of cows from New York, another large milk producer.  Region 4 runs from Mississippi in the West to Kentucky, the Carolinas, and down to Florida.  Region 6 includes Texas, Arkansas, and Louisiana.  New Mexico is a large producer and is also part of region 6.  Slaughter in region 3 is actually 7 percent below last year.  Region 4 is about even with a year ago given that slaughter is only 600 head more than last year.  The big change is in region 6 where dairy cow slaughter is up 24.6 percent, or 42,800 head, over last year.  That represents more than half of the increase in total U.S. dairy cow slaughter this year.  

High cull cow prices are likely adding a little encouragement to dairy cow culling.  But low milk prices are the driving factor.  We are likely to see larger culling than a year ago until milk prices show some improvement.  Dairy cow slaughter tends to decrease seasonally until this time of the year then begins to increase.  Increasing numbers of dairy cows going to market in coming weeks and months would not be a surprise.

Anderson, David. “More Dairy Cow Culling.” Southern Ag Today 3(28.2). July 11, 2023. Permalink