Dr. Maurice L. Eastridge, Professor and Extension Dairy Specialist, Department of Animal Sciences, The Ohio State University
It is always important to monitor the yield of milk and the composition of milk, especially for the individual farmer, because the income of the dairy farm depends on this source of revenue. The yields of fat and protein are the primary determinants of the price received by farmers. The proportions of fat and protein are useful in monitoring cow health and feeding practices within a farm. The income over feed costs (IOFC) and feed costs per hundred of milk are important monitors of costs of milk production.
The average production of milk, fat, and protein by breed for Ohio dairy herds during 2016 through 2020 using the Dairy Herd Improvement (DHI; http://www.dhiohio.com) program are provided in Table 1. Not all herds on DHI are included in the table below because of the different testing options offered by DHI, some herds opt for no release of records, lack of sufficient number of test dates, and given that some of the herds consist of other breeds than the ones shown. In comparison, the average of milk yields from USDA data for all cows in Ohio during 2020 are provided.
The average production per cow increases about 2% annually and the most populated breeds, Holstein and Jersey, increased in milk yield by about 2.8% from 2019 to 2020. During this same time period, milk fat percentage increased about 2.6% for Holstein and 1% for Jersey and milk protein percentage remained the same. Using energy-corrected milk (accounting for the lactose, fat, and protein in milk), Holstein cows increased from 27,496 to 28,629 (4.1%) and Jersey cows increased from 21,855 to 22,596 lb/cow/year from 2019 to 2020. As noted earlier, milk fat and protein are the primary drivers of milk price for dairy farmers. Since fall 2019, protein has been priced higher than fat (Figure 1) and although the gap has closed, protein still remains at a higher price than for fat to date. Optimizing management, genetics, and feeding to maximize yields of fat and protein are very important for dairy farmers to impact profitability.
Table 1. Number of herds, milk yield, milk fat, and milk protein by breed for Ohio herds on DHI during 2016 through 2020.
Milk fat (%)
Milk protein (%)
1Data available from United States Department of Agriculture, National Agricultural Statistics Service.
Figure 1. Price ($/lb) for milk fat and protein during 2019 to current (graph courtesy of Dianne Shoemaker; FMMO = Federal Milk Marketing Order).