USDA, Economic Research Service (ERS) economists use numerous primary sources to assemble and calculate data provided on the ERS Dairy Data web page. Major primary data sources include those listed below; less-used sources are discussed in the information for each data set:

The information below documents how the data were assembled for each dairy data set on the ERS Dairy Data web page:

U.S. dairy situation at a glance

Basic dairy-related data are published monthly, providing statistics for the most recent 14 months and annual statistics for the past 2 years.

U.S. milk production and related data

The report includes quarterly milk-production data, a proxy for dairy feed prices, and replacement cow prices.

Commercial disappearance for dairy product categories

ERS provides commercial disappearance tables for seven product categories: butter, nonfat dry milk, American cheese, other-than-American cheese, dry whey, whey protein concentrate, and lactose. Commercial disappearance tables include total commercial disappearance, domestic commercial disappearance, and the elements that go into calculating commercial disappearance numbers. Monthly data are provided from 1995 to the present.

The following calculations are used:

  • Total commercial supply = beginning commercial stocks + production + imports 
  • Total commercial disappearance = total commercial supply – (USDA net removals, barters, and CCC donations) – commercial ending stocks 
  • Domestic commercial disappearance = total commercial disappearance – commercial exports

The column labeled “USDA net removals, barters, and CCC donations” displays data for several Federal Government programs.

  • USDA net removals are equal to purchases under the Dairy Products Support Program plus Dairy Export Incentive Program exports minus unrestricted sales of stocks held by USDA Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC). The Dairy Products Price Support Program (formerly called the Milk Price Support Program) and the Dairy Export Incentive Program were repealed by the Agricultural Act of 2014.
  • Under a barter program conducted by USDA in 2009 and 2010, Government stocks of nonfat dry milk were exchanged for products containing substantial dairy content. The net transfer of dairy products from the commercial market to the Government is included in the column.
  • In September 2018, the Secretary of Agriculture announced that USDA would use the CCC Charter Act and other authorities to implement a Food Purchase and Distribution Program through the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) to purchase several types of commodities, including dairy products. The purchased products are to be donated through nutrition assistance programs.


Data sources, commercial disappearance for product categories
Commercial disappearance element Source  
Commercial stocks 1 USDA, National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS); USDA, Farm Service Agency  
Production USDA, National Agricultural Statistics Service  
Imports U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census  
USDA net removals, barters, and CCC donations2    
Price support purchases and unrestricted sales
USDA, Farm Service Agency  
Dairy export incentive exports
USDA, Foreign Agricultural Service  
USDA, Farm Service Agency  
CCC Donations
USDA, Agricultural Marketing Service  
Commercial exports 3 U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census; USDA, Foreign Agricultural Service  

1 Government stocks are subtracted from total stocks to calculate commercial stocks. NASS reported government stocks through 2007 but has since not published government stock data. A large percentage of government stocks were held by USDA, Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC). After 2007, CCC stocks were subtracted from total stocks to estimate commercial stocks.
2 CCC = Commodity Credit Corporation.
3 Commercial exports are distinguished from Government exports, which include exports that received bonuses under the Dairy Export Incentive Program and foreign donations of Government products.

Import and export codes used for commercial disappearance product categories

The source for dairy trade data is the U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census. The Census data are compiled using a commodity classification system developed by the World Customs Organization: the Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System, or simply the Harmonized System (HS). The Harmonized System is an international standard for recording world trade at 2-digit, 4-digit, and 6-digit levels of detail. The United States adopted a 10-digit code system to include greater product detail and began using it for U.S. trade on January 1, 1989. Codes used for U.S. exports are provided in the Census in Foreign Trade Schedule B. Codes used for U.S. imports are provided in the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTS), administered by the U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC). The Census data for dairy products are reported in kilograms of product weight or liters of product volume. Since ERS commercial disappearance data are reported in pounds, data for imports and exports must be converted to product weight in pounds.

For Excel workbooks displaying import HTS numbers used for each product category, see the HTS codes used for imports, product categories. Descriptions listed are those provided by the USITC Interactive Tariff and Trade DataWeb. While the ITC descriptions provided by the USITC Interactive Tariff and Trade DataWeb are useful, they are not as accurate or complete as those in the actual tariff schedule. In the Excel workbooks, DataWeb descriptions are provided instead of the actual HTS descriptions in the interest of brevity. 

For an Excel workbook displaying Schedule B export codes used for each product category, see HS codes used for exports, product categories. Export classification in Schedule B is not nearly as detailed as import classification in the HTS. Note that the distinction between American and other-than-American cheese is not precise. We have categorized HS codes according to what we believe are the predominant varieties of cheeses within each HS classification. For example, we make a simplifying assumption that all processed cheese exported is of an American type.

Commercial disappearance of milk in all products

The following monthly and annual data are provided for commercial disappearance of milk in all dairy products:

  • Milk-equivalent milk-fat basis
  • Milk-equivalent skim-solids basis
  • Milk fat
  • Skim solids 

Calculation of estimated commercial disappearance of milk in all products is very similar to the calculation for dairy product categories. An exception is the deduction of farm use to estimate milk marketings.

Milk marketings = Milk production – farm use

Total commercial supply = Beginning commercial stocks + milk marketings + imports 

USDA, National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), publishes farm use data on an annual basis. To estimate monthly farm use of milk, ERS prorates the annual farm use number using the number of days in each month. For each month in the current year, ERS assumes that farm use is equal to the estimated monthly farm use from the previous year.

Milk is made up of water, milk fat, and skim solids (protein, lactose, ash, and trace elements). Milk equivalents are measured on both a milk-fat basis and a skim-solids basis. The milk-fat and skim-solids content of milk varies from year to year, month to month, and from one cow to another. In recent years, proportions of milk fat and skim solids in U.S. milk have been trending upward. In 2017, farm milk in the United States averaged about 87.3 percent water, 8.9 percent skim solids, and 3.8 percent milk fat.

To account for the supply and use of milk in all products, it is necessary to either account for the milk solids (milk fat or skim solids) or the equivalent amount of milk (on a milk-fat or skim-solids basis) associated with commercial stocks, USDA net removals, barters, CCC donations, imports, and exports of the products. Conversion factors associated with milk fat and skim solids are used for this accounting.

Conversion factors

For stocks, USDA net removals, barters, and CCC donations, the milk-fat and skim-solids percentages are estimated for each product reported by NASS; USDA, Farm Service Agency; or AMS. For imports and exports, milk-fat and skim-solids percentages are estimated for each HS code, based upon information from several sources. To estimate the farm milk equivalent (m.e.) on milk-fat and skim-solids bases, estimated milk fat and skim solids are divided by estimates of milk fat and skim solids in U.S. farm milk, which vary from one month to the next.

National milk-fat test data for each month are provided by NASS. Since a national solids-nonfat (SNF) test is not reported by USDA, ERS uses the weighted-average SNF test reported by AMS for the seven Federal milk marketing orders (FMMOs) with component-based pricing (see In November 2018, a California FMMO became effective, and it is one of the seven FMMOs with component-based pricing. Prior to that, California milk handlers were regulated by a State milk marketing order, which was separate from the Federal system and was administered by the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA). For months prior to November 2018, ERS estimates a weighted-average SNF test for the United States, using the SNF test for the six FMMOs with component-based pricing (extrapolated to include all U.S. areas outside of California), SNF test data reported by CDFA, and milk production data reported by NASS.

For an Excel workbook with conversion factors for stocks; USDA net removals, barters, and CCC donations; imports, and exports—as well as the sources for the conversion factors—see Dairy conversion factors and sources.

As an example, to convert 4,000 kilograms of Cheddar cheese imports or exports into a skim-solids basis milk equivalent in a month when skim solids in farm milk equal 8.9 percent, the following formula would be used:

 (Product quantity [KG or Liters] x (Metric Conversion Factor) x (Skim percentage) / (SNF Test)

= Skim-solids basis milk equivalent (4,000 kg of cheese) x (2.204623 pounds/kg) x (29.9 % of skim solids in Cheddar cheese) / (8.9 % of skim solids in farm milk) = 29,626 pounds of m.e. on a skim-solids basis                                 

This number is divided by 1 million, as commercial disappearance numbers on milk-equivalent bases are published in million-pound units.

Commercial exports, DEIP, and Government export donations 

Dairy exports through the Dairy Export Incentive Program (DEIP) or U.S. Government export donations must be subtracted from total exports reported by the Census in order to represent an accurate commercial export figure. ERS has obtained DEIP amounts and U.S. Government donations on a monthly basis starting in 2004. For years before 2004, ERS has only annual estimates of DEIP and Government export donations. Therefore, for years prior to 2004, ERS has made the simplifying assumption that monthly Government-related exports are the same proportion of total exports for each month of the year.

Supply and allocation of milk fat and skim solids by product

Seven tables are provided for the supply and allocation of milk fat and skim solids by product:

  • Product volumes (millions of pounds)
  • Milk-fat supply and dairy industry allocation (million pounds)
  • Skim-solids supply and dairy industry allocation (million pounds)
  • Milk-fat percent of total supply by product
  • Skim-solids percent of total supply by product
  • Milk-fat content of products (percentages)
  • Skim-solids content of products (percentages)

Primary data sources

The source for most of the supply and product volume data is USDA, National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS). The primary data source for imports is the Census. USDA, Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS); California Department of Food and Agriculture; other State agencies; and USDA, Economic Research Service calculations are sources for fluid beverage milk sales (see documentation for “Fluid beverage milk sales quantities by product” below). AMS is the source for production of cream products prior to 2007 and sour cream prior to 2003. The annual publication Dairy Products Utilization and Production Trends, by the American Dairy Product Institute (ADPI), is the source for estimated milk permeate and whey permeate production since 2012. Many sources are used to estimate milk fat and skim solids associated with the dairy products. (See Dairy conversion factors and sources). Most product categories include several products. In these cases, the milk-fat and skim-solids content percentages are weighted averages of products within the category.

Accounting for milk fat and skim solids in fluid milk products

ERS calculates estimates of the milk-fat and skim-solids content of fluid milk products by assembling data from various sources. The following steps were used in the estimation:

  1. AMS has provided ERS with the milk-fat content of fluid milk sales by product for Federal milk marketing order (FMMO) in-area sales. Milk-fat content data for fluid milk sales by product outside of FMMO areas are not readily available.
  2. Until November 2018, California had a milk marketing order system that was independent from the FMMO system. Neither milk-fat nor skim-solids data for fluid milk sales by product are readily available for the former California system; skim-solids data for fluid milk sales by product are not readily available for FMMO areas. As a starting point for skim-solids accounting for fluid milk sales by product in FMMO areas and California, calculations were made using skim-solids percentage estimates obtained from sources such as the National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, published by the USDA, Agricultural Research Service. For California, the same type of calculations was used for milk fat.
  3. While skim-solids content data are not readily available for each type of fluid milk product sold in FMMO areas, Class I total skim-solids percentages for pooled milk are available for six FMMOs. (Class I milk includes pooled milk disposed of in the form of fluid beverage milk products. In the FMMO system, a Roman numeral I is used, while an Arabic numeral 1 was used for the former California system.) Skim-solids percentages derived in step 2 above have been adjusted proportionally so that the skim-solids percentage for total fluid milk sales by product is equal to the skim-solids percentage for Class I pooled milk for the six FMMOs with published skim-solids percentages.
  4. While milk-fat and skim-solids content data are not readily available for each type of fluid milk product sold in California, data for the overall Class 1 milk-fat and skim-solids content for pooled milk are available. For California, the milk-fat and skim-solids content estimates for each product as derived in step 2 have been adjusted proportionally so that the milk-fat and skim-solids percentages of total fluid milk sales by product are equal to the milk-fat and skim-solids percentages for Class 1 pooled milk. Note that the standards for components in California are higher than the rest of the United States, so average milk-fat and skim-solids percentages are usually higher.
  5. For areas outside of FMMO areas or California, the milk-fat and skim-solids percentages by product are assumed to be the same as that of the FMMOs.
  6. The total estimated milk fat and skim solids content for each product in the United States is the sum of the estimated milk fat and skim solids content for the FMMO areas, California, and the areas outside of FMMO areas or California.

Adjustments to avoid duplication

Net totals for some products are provided in order to avoid duplication in accounting for milk solids due to the use of dairy products as ingredients in other dairy products. Dairy Products Utilization and Production Trends, by ADPI, is used in accounting for this duplication. ADPI reports include dairy industry uses of certain products by volume and as percentages of total domestic sales. In most cases, ERS uses ADPI percentage estimates rather than the volume estimates because ERS calculations of total domestic sales sometimes differ from those of ADPI. For bulk evaporated and condensed milk, ADPI reports dairy industry use of milk solids rather than product volumes (which would include the water and sweeteners); thus, ERS reports net totals for milk fat and skim solids for the products but not net totals for product volumes.

Dairy Products, Per Capita Consumption

ERS provides annual per capita consumption estimates for major dairy products. For most products, per capita consumption is calculated by dividing domestic disappearance by the U.S. resident population plus armed forces overseas. July 1 population data reported by the Census Bureau are used.

Fluid beverage milk is the exception, with per capita consumption calculated by dividing estimated route disposition by the U.S. resident population. (The definition for route disposition is provided in the documentation below for Fluid milk sales quantities by product.) The armed forces overseas population data are not included in the calculation because the route disposition data do not include overseas deliveries.

Fluid beverage milk sales quantities by product

ERS reports annual estimated U.S. sales quantities of fluid beverage milk. The USDA Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) provides ERS with route disposition data for milk sales quantities by product within Federal milk marketing order (FMMO) areas. Route disposition is defined in the U.S. Code of Regulations as “delivery to a retail or wholesale outlet (except a plant), either directly or through any distribution facility (including disposition from a plant store, vendor, or vending machine) of a fluid milk product in consumer-type packages or dispenser units” (7 CFR 1000.3).

While the AMS data account for most of the fluid beverage milk sold in the United States, there are substantial areas of the country that are not covered by the AMS data because they are not subject to FMMO regulations. Some areas outside of FMMO have State regulations that are similar to the FMMO system. Until November 2018, the entire State of California operated under its own similar system, and fluid milk sales data for California were publicly reported by CDFA. In November 2018, a new FMMO became effective for California, and in-area fluid milk sales data for California are reported by AMS.

 ERS receives fluid milk sales data from other State entities as follows: 

  • New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets: fluid milk sales quantities by product for the Western New York Milk Marketing Area.
  • Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services: fluid milk sales quantities (not broken out by product) for Eastern, Western, and Southwestern Market areas of the State.
  • Montana Department of Livestock: fluid milk sales quantities for the State (not broken out by product).
  • Maine Milk Commission: fluid milk sales quantities sold in containers with volume greater than or equal to 1 quart (not broken out by product).

For areas where sales by product are known, per capita quantities by product are calculated using county population data covering each area. For areas where sales by product are not available but total fluid sales quantities are, ERS assumes that proportions of quantities sold in those areas match proportions of the areas where sales by product data are provided.

There are some areas of the country for which no fluid milk sales data are currently available. These include parts of Ohio, Missouri, North Dakota, South Dakota, Colorado, Idaho, and Pennsylvania. No data are available for the entire States of Nevada, Utah, Wyoming, Alaska, or Hawaii. From 2000 through March 2004, the entire State of Utah and parts of Nevada, Oregon, Idaho, and Wyoming were included in a Western FMMO area. The Western FMMO was terminated as of April 1, 2004. For April 2004 through 2017, ERS estimates per capita consumption in these areas as follows:

           Former Western order area quantity =

[Total FMMO quantity + California quantity] X

{2000 to 2003 average of [(Western FMMO quantity)/

(Total FMMO quantity + California quantity)}

Fluid milk in Alaska and Hawaii is relatively expensive compared with other parts of the country because most of it is shipped long distances from other States. With relatively high prices, ERS assumes that per capita fluid milk consumption in these States matches the FMMO area with the minimum per capita sales for the year—usually either the Southeastern or Appalachian FMMO area. For counties with no fluid milk sales quantity data other than those in the former Western FMMO, Alaska, or Hawaii, per capita sales quantities are assumed to match the aggregate per capita quantities where data are available.

Selected soft dairy products, domestic use

ERS reports domestic use of frozen products, yogurt, cottage cheese, sour cream, and fluid cream products. ERS uses production data from NASS and import and export data from the Census as reported by the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service. Data for frozen products, reported in gallons from NASS, are converted to pounds, with ice cream products and other frozen products assumed to weigh 4.7 and 6 pounds per gallon, respectively. Where possible, domestic use is calculated as production plus imports minus exports. Where detail is not available for every term of the calculation, aggregated data for imports and export are apportioned in accordance with production of the products. Production numbers, not adjusted for imports and exports, are provided for cottage cheese and sour cream. Domestic use of fluid cream products is not reported for years after 2006 because primary data are not readily available.

Milk cows and production by State and region

For this annual report, ERS provides regional subtotals for milk cows, milk per cow, and milk production from State data provided by NASS. Data for the most recent 5 years are shown when the file is opened. If the data user unhides columns, data are displayed since 1970.

Milk production and factors affecting supply

For this table, most of the primary data are provided by NASS. For years after 2008, the slaughter price is calculated as an estimated live weight equivalent from a national price for domestic cutter cows as reported by AMS. Note that the table includes both a January 1 inventory value for milk cows and an average inventory value as reported by NASS. The former is provided in order to calculate the ratio of replacement heifers to milk cows.

Milk supply and utilization of all dairy products

This data set includes annual supply and utilization tables for milk; butter; nonfat dry milk and skim milk powder; condensed and evaporated milk; American cheese; and other-than-American cheese. Note that these numbers are similar to annual commercial disappearance numbers reported for dairy product categories and milk in all products. However, for these supply and utilization tables, stocks include Government stocks (for the period when they were reported) in addition to commercial stocks. In contrast to the commercial disappearance data sets, the milk supply and utilization tables account for shipments to U.S. territories, and U.S. Government export donations. Thus, U.S. domestic human use quantities from commercial and Government sources are estimated. While the commercial disappearance data can be computed monthly, utilization numbers as computed for this data set can be computed only annually due to data constraints.

Number and size of milk bottling plants

This data file includes two tables with overlapping periods, 1960 to 2011 and 2008 to the most current year available. The plant data covering the earlier period were calculated by ERS from FMMO and various State data sources. In recent years, this method has been judged less accurate than data from the Interstate Milk Shippers list of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The plant count from FDA as of July for each year was used to construct a series with data since 2008. For the table with data since 2008, plants producing the following products have been included in the total: 

  • Pasteurized whole milk, reduced fat, low fat, and skim.
  • Heat-treated (may include reduced fat, skim, low fat, or cream).
  • Ultra-pasteurized milk and milk products (except plants that only produce cream products).
  • Aseptic milk and milk products (including flavored, but not including plants that only produce cream products). 

To calculate the average-size milk plant, the total quantity for the year as reported in the "Fluid beverage milk sales quantities by product" file is divided by the number of plants for the year.

Per capita consumption of selected cheese varieties

Due to changes in data availability, two tables are provided, one with data since 1995 and another with data from 1970 to 1994. Per capita consumption is calculated as domestic use divided by population of U.S. residents plus armed forces overseas. For all of the varieties included in the table, production data are available. For some varieties, data concerning stocks, imports, exports, shipments to U.S. territories, and donations are available to calculate domestic use as is done for the "Milk supply and utilization in all products" table. However, for most varieties, since such detail is not available for every term of the calculation, aggregated data (for stocks, imports, etc.) are apportioned in accordance with production of cheese varieties.

Archived historical data

Previously published dairy data are available in a Dairy Yearbook accessible through the USDA Economics, Statistics and Market Information System (ESMIS), a collaborative project between the Albert R. Mann Library at Cornell University and several USDA agencies. The Yearbook contains data on production, supply, and use of milk and manufactured dairy products, wholesale and retail price indexes, prices received by farmers, milk production costs, and regional shares of U.S. milk production, among other information. The Yearbook was last updated in September 2005. Data contained in archived Yearbooks may not be comparable to the current Dairy Data tables because of subsequent changes in the methods used to calculate supply and use.

Recommended citation

U. S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service. Dairy Data.