The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced the March Federal Order Class III benchmark milk price April 3 at $15.04 per hundredweight, up $1.15 from February, 82 cents above March 2018 and the highest Class III price since October 2018.

It equates to $1.29 per gallon, up from $1.22 a year ago.

The March Class IV price is $15.71, down 15 cents from February but $2.67 above a year ago and the highest March Class IV since 2014.

Dairy product prices started April with some hesitation. Cheddar block cheese closed the first Friday of the month at $1.66 per pound, up 1.5 cents on the week and 5.75 cents above a year ago. The barrels closed at $1.5750, down 2.75 cents but still 12.5 cents above a year ago.

Central cheesemakers tell Dairy Market News that demand is edging up due to seasonal shifts and the upcoming holidays. Some have said winter buying was particularly dismal and recent weather in the Midwest and Northeast was far from complementary to retail/restaurant cheese buying.

Cheese offers in the West are abundant, as manufacturers have a lot in stock.

Butter closed at $2.27 per pound, up 1.5 cents on the week but 1.75 cents below a year ago when it jumped 7.25 cents.

Grade A nonfat dry milk closed Friday, April 5, at 98.75 cents per pound, up 2.5 cents on the week and 26 cents above a year ago.

Spot dry whey saw a close at 34.5 cents per pound, 2.25 cents higher on the week and 2.5 cents above a year ago.

While dairy product prices are rising, pulling milk prices with them, they continue to have a long way to go to reach profitability for farmers, and export issues have served to keep a lid on prices.

The March 25 issue of Hoard’s Dairyman tells the story of what’s happening throughout rural USA. Managing editor Cory Geiger also reported some of the details on the April 8 Dairy Radio Now broadcast, stating that 2,731 U.S. dairy farms called it quits in 2018, about 6.8 percent, and the most exits since 2007.

Geiger sees a similar percentage closing in 2019 and says the number of dairy farms holding permits has declined by 94,041 since 1992, from 131,509 to 37,468, a 72 percent drop.

He also points out that while the average herd size has gone from 74 cows in 1992 to 251 in 2018, the total number of milk cows in the nation’s milking herd has not changed much.

California remains the leading milk producing state and has the most dairy cows, followed by Wisconsin, with New York and Idaho battling for the number 3 spot in milk output. Michigan is number 1 in milk per cow, followed by Colorado and New Mexico, and the state with the most cows per herd is New Mexico.

The Northwest Dairy Association makes these price projections for the Class III price and Pacific Northwest blend price:

Month   Class      PNW

III        Blend 

March   $15.04   $15.75

(current)

April     $15.85    $16.20

May     $15.80     $16.50

June     $15.85    $16.50

July      $16.10    $16.65

Aug.     $16.35    $16.85

Sept.    $16.50    $16.95

Oct.      $16.50    $16.90

Nov.     $16.40    $16.85

Lee Mielke, of Lynden, is editor of the Mielke Market Weekly. Whatcom County has about 85 dairy farms.