US dairy herd growth limited by replacement heifer numbers
However, according to DairyCo with the number of replacement heifers dropping, production growth will be reliant on milk yield improvements. The reliance on purchased feed on dairy farms within the US industry means that growth in US milk production is more dependent on feed price levels than in countries which are more pasture-based.
According to results of the July cattle survey, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) estimates there are around 5% fewer replacement heifers in 2014 compared to 2012 figures (there was no survey in 2013 due to budget cuts).
The number of dairy cows was estimated at 9.3 million head, up 1% from 2012, while dairy replacement heifers (>500 lbs.) were estimated to be down 5% to 3.9 million head. Strong exports of female dairy replacements exports will have affected the numbers available for domestic milking herds.
The reports from USDA shows that the US national cattle herd has declined 3% since mid-2012 to 95 million head, which is the lowest figure for this series since it began in 1973.