USDA ERS Dairy Outlook: May 2022

Chris Zoller, Extension Educator, Agriculture and Natural Resources, Tuscarawas County, Ohio State University Extension

The latest Livestock, Dairy, and Poultry Outlook ( was released May 18, 2022.  In this outlook, the United States Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service (USDA ERS) provided an analysis of projections for each of these commodities.  This article provides a summary of the dairy sector outlook.

Supply & Use Data

Data provided by the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) indicate a mixed bag of inventory and production numbers. Compared to March 2020, U.S. milk production was 0.5% lower in March 2022.  The number of milk cows in March 2022 (9.395 million) was 15,000 head more than the previous month but 87,000 fewer than the inventory in March 2021.

Compared to March 2021, milk production per cow increased eight pounds to 2,096 pounds per head.  After a steady decline in milk cow numbers from June 2021 to January 2022, there was an increase in cow numbers in February and March of 2022.

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Feed Price Outlook

Not surprisingly, the corn price projection increased from $5.90 per bushel (2021/2022 marketing year) to $6.75 per bushel (2022/2023 marketing year; see table below).  This outlook does estimate a slight decline in soybean meal and a slight increase in alfalfa.


2021/2022 Marketing Year

2022/2023 Marketing Year




Soybean Meal



The alfalfa hay price in March 2022 was $221 per ton, an increase of $7 compared to February and $44 greater than the March 2021 price.  The five-state weighted average for premium alfalfa was $269 per ton in March.  This is an increase of $3 per ton compared to February 2022 and $59 greater compared to March 2021.

Infant Formula Shortage

In mid-February 2022, a major manufacturer of infant formula issued a recall of certain powder produced domestically.  USDA is encouraging states to take advantage of flexibilities being offered through the Women, Infant, and Children (WIC) program to allow families to get the essential formula nutrients needed.

Demand for lactose and whey protein concentrate (WPC) products that meet the strict requirements for infant formula is strong, but supplies are very tight.  The current shortage may have increased imports of preparations suitable for infants.  While imports have increased, supplies remain tight because of domestic demand.

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2022 Forecasts

For 2022, the U.S. milking herd is expected to average 9.4 million head, 30,000 more than last month’s forecast.  Milk cow numbers are expected to increase during the third quarter of the year before leveling off in the fourth quarter.

Milk per cow is expected to average 24,120 pounds in 2022.  With an expected increase in cow numbers, total milk production for 2022 is estimated at 226.7 billion pounds, an increase of 0.4 billion from last month’s forecast. Class III milk is expected to be $22.75 /cwt.  Class IV was lowered $0.25 to $23.80/cwt, and the all-milk price for 2022 is projected to be $25.75/cwt.

2023 Forecasts

For 2023, the U.S. miking herd is expected to average 9.4 million head.  Milk per cow is expected to increase 1.2% to 24,420 pounds per head.  Total milk production is forecast to increase 1.2% more than 2022, to a total of 229.5 billion pounds.

Greater milk production combined with relatively stable demand is projected to negatively impact milk pricing.  Price projections for 2023:

  • Class III $20.50 per cwt
  • Class IV $21.40 per cwt
  • All-milk $23.55 per cwt


Yes, much will change between now and 2023, but I encourage you to consider this and other reliable information as you plan.  If these milk price projections are true, can you be profitable?  If not, what changes will you need to make?

I encourage you to develop various budget scenarios, talk with input suppliers, and lean on your trusted advisors.