California Dairy 2012 Mid-Year Review

The California Department of Food & Agriculture’ (CDFA) California Dairy Statistics & Trends Mid-Year Review is out, indicating  the state's dairy industry remains productive, even as its dairy producers feel economic stress.

For the first six months of 2012, California recorded increased milk production for each month compared to the same period in 2011, recording an average overall growth rate of 4.7%. March 2012 milk production in California reached 3.8 billion lbs., the highest total monthly milk production on record. 


The increased milk production continued to reflect the increase in the number of cows, higher average milk per cow, availability of replacement milk cows, favorable weather, and efficiency gains and management practices on the dairy. During the early months of 2012, some processing organizations enforced production bases and capped the amount of milk they would accept to limit production growth and address plant capacity issues. 


For dairy producers, milk prices showed a decrease compared to 2011 and feed costs continue to be the primary driver of the cost to produce milk. For the U.S. overall, comparing January-June of 2012 to the same time period in 2011, milk production was up 3.6%, the number of milk cows was up 76,000 cows, and the average milk per cow was up 2.8%.


For dairy processors, exports of manufactured dairy products remained strong, and competition in the international market has strengthened. Through June 2012, compared to the first six months of 2011, California dairy product growth continued to be focused on butter and powder products. However total cheese production also showed an increase compared to last year levels. 


Compared to 2011, the first half of 2012 showed California butter production up 11.6%, nonfat dry milk up 34.8%, and total cheese production up 2.4%. However, January-June 2012 California Class 1 sales of fluid milk (including half and half) continued to decline, recording a decrease of 2.4%, compared to the same period in 2011. 


Commercial demand for dairy products, including global demand, continues to be steady and strong which is contributing to stronger commodity prices. 


For the first quarter of 2012, the average mailbox milk price paid to California producers was $15.52/cwt. (with a first quarter average statewide cost to produce milk of $16.63/cwt.); this compares to an average mailbox milk price paid of $16.94/cwt. for the first quarter of 2011 (with a first quarter average statewide cost to produce milk of $15.15/cwt.).


To see the full report, visit


California’s Top 10 milk producing counties:
January-June 2012 

Rank County

Jan.-June 2012

Milk production

(Million lbs.)

Percent change

Jan.-June 2012 
from Jan.-June 2011

Percent of state’s

total production

1 Tulare 5,946.9 +5.43 27.3
2 Merced 3,106.7 +5.79 14.2
3 Kings 2,254.2 +2.13 10.3
4 Stanislaus 2,202.8 +7.78 10.1
5 Kern 2,131.2 +6.12 9.8
6 Fresno 1,383.5 +1.01 6.3
7 San Joaquin 1,229.7 +0.41 5.6
8 Madera 936.3 +7.02 4.3
9 San Bernardino 875.7 +5.53 4.0
10 Riverside 543.0 +5.71 2.5

Source: CDFA Dairy Statistics & Trends Mid-Year Review