May 6, 2024

Ag Economy

Dairy Industry Snapshot


Avg. Price per Cwt.


2023 2024 Forecast

Boston Blend Price1


20.01 20.51

Avg. WNY





USDA All-Milk Price3





Avian Influenza (HPAI)

  • Highly Pathenogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) has been confirmed in dairy cattle in multiple US states (Texas, New Mexico, Kansas, Idaho, Ohio and Michigan, as of April 8). This is a highly fluid situation which Farm Credit East is closely monitoring.
  • In most known cases, wild migratory birds are believed to be the source of infection. However, the spread of the illness among the affected Michigan herd also indicates that HPAI transmission between cattle cannot be ruled out at this time.

Human Infection:

  • Initial testing has not found changes to the virus that would make it more transmissible to humans. While cases among humans in direct contact with infected animals are possible, this indicates that the current risk to the public remains low. Human infection has been rare, however, farmworkers and service providers should exercise caution among sick or dead birds and infected animals. This includes wearing PPE and disinfecting following exposure.
  • H5N1 HPAI Illness in humans range from no symptoms or mild illness to small numbers of persons experiencing more severe illness. 

Preventing the Spread:

  • Farmers should exercise increased biosecurity protocols, including any farm visitors. This may include using disposable booties, gloves, and possibly additional PPE depending on level of contact with animals. 
  • Visit this link for the National Milk Producers Federation biosecurity recommendations: Dairy Cattle: Biosecurity Recommendations for HPAI and More

Industry Impact:

  • USDA is encouraging producers and veterinarians to minimize dairy cattle movement. At this time, they expect that minimizing movement, upholding good biosecurity practices, and testing animals before necessary movements will limit disease spread sufficiently to avoid the need for regulatory restrictions or quarantines. Unlike in poultry flocks where HPAI is fatal, among the dairies whose herds are exhibiting symptoms, the affected animals have recovered with little to no associated mortality reported.
  • At this stage, USDA does not anticipate the need to depopulate dairy herds if infections are found. Unlike HPAI in birds which is typically fatal, little to no mortality has been reported and the animals are reportedly recovering. The affected cows on the dairy farms are currently being isolated from other animals. Transparency and collaboration with and by dairy producers will be important to mitigate broader potential impacts to the industry.

Food System Impact:

  • Because milk and dairy products are pasteurized before entering the market, there is no concern about the safety of the commercial milk supply, or that this circumstance poses a risk to consumer health. Pasteurization has continuously proven to inactivate bacteria and viruses, like influenza, in milk.
  • USDA is also confident that the beef and veal supply is safe. As always, USDA encourages consumers to properly handle raw meats and to cook to a safe internal temperature. Cooking to a safe internal temperature kills bacteria and viruses, like influenza, in meat.
  • Despite the safety of the food supply, there is some concern regarding consumer reactions and whether this may affect demand for dairy products. 
  • For more information on this evolving situation, visit:   

Market Overview

  • The national milk cow herd decreased by 14,000 head from 9.400 million head in 2022 to 9.386 million head in 2023. Milk production increased by 30 pounds per head to 24,117 pounds. Despite this productivity increase, overall milk production was virtually unchanged though slightly lower, at from 226.4 billion pounds, due to the aforementioned decline in number of cows. 
  • New York led the nation in milk production growth, by number of pounds, in 2023, with an increase in number of cows from 624,000 to 630,000 head and increased production from 25,074 pounds per cow to 25,522. This resulted in an overall increase in production of 2.8%. Many states saw declines, including California (-2.1%), Connecticut (-0.7%), Maine (-2.0%), Massachusetts (-4.8%), New Hampshire (-5.0%), New Jersey (-2.3%), Pennsylvania (-0.9%), Rhode Island (-3.0%), and Vermont (-0.7%). Other milk producing states showed increases, including Idaho (1.2%), Michigan (2.9%), Texas (0.2%), and Wisconsin (0.8%). 
  • Feed and fuel costs have declined over the last year, but other input costs have risen, while milk prices have declined, tightening margins for dairy producers. 
  • USDA Dairy Margin Coverage (DMC) sign-up is open through April 29, retroactive to January 1, 2024. Payments have already been determined for January and February at the $9.50 coverage level. No payments are forecast from March through December, but the program is intended to protect against unforeseen price changes. 

1 Agri-Mark Price Forecast
2 Upstate Niagara Price Forecast
3 USDA World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimate (WASDE)

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