Milk Prices, Costs of Nutrients, Margins, and Comparison of Feedstuffs Prices

April F. White, Graduate Research Associate, Department of Animal Sciences, The Ohio State University

Milk Prices

In the November issue, the Class III milk future for January was $16.38/cwt.  Class III milk closing price for December was $16.04/cwt, with protein and butterfat prices at $1.45 and $2.98/lb, respectively. The price of milk protein and fat have decreased since the previous issue, a trend typically seen through post-holidays through winter. In this issue, the Class III future for February is $15.95/cwt with March at $16.33/cwt.

Nutrient Prices

It can be helpful to compare the prices in Table 1 to the 5-year averages. Since the November issue, the cost of net energy for lactation (NEL) has decreased by about 27%. The cost of NEL is about even with the 5-year average ($0.09/Mcal). The cost of metabolizable protein (MP) has increased slightly since the November issue, but it is still currently about 5% higher than the 5-year average ($0.44/lb).

To estimate profitability at these nutrient prices, the Cow-Jones Index was used for average US cows weighing 1500 lb and producing milk with 3.9% fat and 3.2% protein. For the January 2024 issue, the income over nutrient cost (IONC) for cows milking 70 and 85 lb/day is about $9.32 and $9.79/cwt, respectively. Both values are expected to be profitable even though they experienced a post-holidays decline. As a word of caution, these estimates of IONC do not account for the cost of replacements or dry cows, or for profitability changes related to culling cows.

Table 1. Prices of dairy nutrients for Ohio dairy farms, January 12, 2024.

Economic Value of Feeds

Results of the Sesame analysis for central Ohio on January 12, 2024 are presented in Table 2. Detailed results for all 26 feed commodities are reported. The lower and upper limits mark the 75% confidence range for the predicted (break-even) prices. Feeds in the “Appraisal Set” were those for which we didn’t have a local price or were adjusted to reflect their true (“Corrected”) value in a lactating diet. One must remember that SESAME™ compares all commodities at one specific point in time. Thus, the results do not imply that the bargain feeds are cheap on a historical basis. Feeds for which a price was not reported were added to the appraisal set in this issue.

Table 2. Actual, breakeven (predicted) and 75% confidence limits of 26 feed commodities used on Ohio dairy farms, January 12, 2024.

For convenience, Table 3 summarizes the economic classification of feeds according to their outcome in the SESAME™ analysis. Feedstuffs that have gone up in price based on current nutrient values, or in other words moved a column to the right since the last issue, are in oversized text. Conversely, feedstuffs that have moved to the left (i.e., decreased in value) are undersized text. These shifts (i.e., feeds moving columns to the left or right) in price are only temporary changes relative to other feedstuffs within the last two months and do not reflect historical prices. Feeds added to the appraisal set were removed from this table.

Table 3. Partitioning of feedstuffs in Ohio, January 12, 2024.


At Breakeven


Corn, ground, dry

Wheat bran

41% Cottonseed meal

Corn silage

Whole cottonseed

Blood meal

Distillers dried grains


Mechanically extracted canola meal

Gluten meal

Wheat middlings

Solvent extracted canola meal

Gluten feed

Soybean hulls

44% Soybean meal

Meat meal

48% Soybean meal

Whole, roasted soybeans


Soybean meal - expeller



Alfalfa hay – 40% NDF



Feather meal


As coined by Dr. St-Pierre, I must remind the readers that these results do not mean that you can formulate a balanced diet using only feeds in the “bargains” column. Feeds in the “bargains” column offer a savings opportunity, and their usage should be maximized within the limits of a properly balanced diet. In addition, prices within a commodity type can vary considerably because of quality differences as well as non-nutritional value added by some suppliers in the form of nutritional services, blending, terms of credit, etc. Also, there are reasons that a feed might be a very good fit in your feeding program while not appearing in the “bargains” column. For example, your nutritionist might be using some molasses in your rations for reasons other than its NEL and MP contents.


For those of you who use the 5-nutrient group values (i.e., replace metabolizable protein by rumen degradable protein and digestible rumen undegradable protein), see Table 4.

Table 4. Prices of dairy nutrients using the 5-nutrient solution for Ohio dairy farms, January 12, 2024.