USDA Dairy Report: March 2023

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

The United States Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service (USDA ERS) publishes a monthly Livestock, Dairy, and Poultry Outlook.  The March report is available here:  This article will highlight portions of the dairy report.

Supply and Use

The most recent USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) estimate of U.S. milk production for 2022 was revised up 0.1 percent compared to 2021.  For 2022, the number of milk cows was reduced by 2,000 head.  The average number of cows and milk production per cow in January 2023 were higher than the same month a year prior. 

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Data from the NASS Agricultural Prices Report and the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service compare various costs for January 2022 and January 2023.  These items are summarized in the table below.


January 2023

Difference (compared to same month year prior)







Alfalfa hay




$500.53/ton (Feb. 2023)


Based on the USDA, Dairy Margin Program, in January 2023, the spread between milk prices and feed costs ($7.94/cwt), narrowed compared to January 2022 ($11.54/cwt).

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Dairy culling rates in the first few weeks of 2023 were at a brisk pace, as represented in the table below.

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Restaurant Performance Index

According to data from the Restaurant Performance Index (RPI) from the National Restaurant Association, product sales were strong in January 2023.  The index rose 0.9 percent from December 2022 to January 2023, the strongest monthly increase in 15 months.  The National Restaurant Association is optimistic about sales growth, as 58 percent of operators expect sales growth to increase in the next six months.

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Forecast for 2023

For 2023, USDA ERS is projecting an increase of 0.20 billion pounds of milk higher than last month, and 10,000 more milk cows than projected in the prior month’s report.  However, cow numbers are expected to decline throughout the year because of lower numbers of replacements and higher cull cow prices.


Price Forecast for 2023

Class III


Class IV