Profitability could improve in the U.S. dairy industry next year, but dairy-cow numbers will continue to decline, say analysts with USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS).

The size of the national dairy herd is expected to total 9.2 million cows this year and slip to just over 9.1 million cows in 2013, according to the ag department’s November Livestock, Dairy and Poultry Outlook. The decline is the result of “the profit squeeze experienced by producers this year.”

ERS expects milk-per-cow production to average 21,880 lbs in the year ahead compared to an estimated 21,640 lbs this year. Total U.S. milk production in 2013 is expected to total 199.7 billion pounds, the same as that forecast for this year.