Cheese dips below $2 again; butter soars

Columnist Lee Mielke wraps up the week's dairy news.


For the Capital Press

Published on June 3, 2014 11:53AM

Lee Mielke

Lee Mielke

The return to $2 cheese the week of May 19 was tested last week, following the Memorial Day holiday, and the bleeding began again.

The Cheddar blocks closed Friday at $1.96 per pound, down 6 cents on the holiday-shortened week but still 21 1/2-cents above a year ago. The blocks inched up a quarter-cent Monday and a penny and a quarter on Tuesday.

The barrels shot up 3 cents early last week, shed 11 1/4-cents, and then recovered some Friday to close at $1.9325, down 8 3/4-cents on the week but 22 1/2-cents above a year ago.

The barrels were unchanged Monday and inched a quarter-cent higher Tuesday on 14 cars traded. Six cars of each traded hands last week.

Cash butter soared to $2.30 per pound last Friday, up 12 cents on the week and 76 cents above a year ago; a level not seen since April 2004, but still short of the record $2.81 per pound in September 1998. Seventeen carloads were sold on the week. However, the Double A price dropped 2 cents Monday and another 2 cents Tuesday, to $2.26 per pound.

Cash Grade A nonfat dry milk closed Friday at $1.8450 per pound, up 5 1/4-cents on the week. Five cars were sold on the week. Powder was unchanged Monday and up 1 1/4-cents Tuesday.

California cheese milk price falls

The California Department of Food and Agriculture announced its May Class 4b cheese milk price Monday at $19.34 per hundredweight, down $2.39 from April but $2.14 above May 2013 and the highest May 4b price since May 2004’s $19.34. The 4a butter-powder price is $22.57, down 74 cents from April but $4.33 above a year ago.

The 4b five-month average now stands at $20.94, up from $16.08 at this time a year ago and $13.66 in 2012. The 4a average is now at $22.89, up from $17.84 a year ago and $15.04 in 2012.

May milk-feed price ratio slips

The preliminary May milk-feed price ratio slipped from April, according to the Agriculture Department’s latest Ag Prices report. The May milk-feed price ratio is at 2.28, down from 2.43 in April, and compares to 1.53 in May 2013.

The index is based on the current milk price in relationship to feed prices for a ration of 51 percent corn, 8 percent soybeans and 41 percent alfalfa hay. In other words, 1 lb. of milk today can purchase 2.28 lbs. of dairy feed containing that blend.

The May U.S. average all-milk price was $24.70/cwt., down from $25.30/cwt. in April, and compares to $19.70/cwt. in May 2013.

May corn, at $4.71/bushel, was unchanged from April, but $2.26 less than May 2013.

Soybeans averaged $14.50/bushel, up 20 cents from April, but 40 cents below May 2013, and alfalfa hay averaged $224/ton, up $18 from April but $3/ton more than May 2013.

Looking at the cow side of the ledger, the report shows the preliminary May cull price for beef and dairy combined averaged $104/cwt., up $1/cwt. from April, and $22.20/cwt. above May 2013.

Global Dairy Trade average down 4.2 percent

Tuesday’s Global Dairy Trade auction saw the weighted average for all products drop another 4.2 percent, following the 1.8 percent drop in the May 20 event and a 1.1 percent decline in the May 6 event. The price index has seen declines since reaching its recent high Feb. 4.

The downfall today was led by a 10.2 percent drop in rennet casein, which was up 4.6 percent in the last event, and an 8.5 percent decline in whole milk powder, which was down 1.1 percent in the last event. Anhydrous milkfat was down 5 percent — it was up 1.9 percent in the last event. Butter milk powder was down 1.9 percent — the same as the last event — and GDT butter was unchanged. It was down 3.8 percent in the last event.

The good news is the increase in Cheddar cheese, up an average 8 percent, following a 2.1 percent decline in the last event. Skim milk powder was up 2.1 percent. It was down 3.5 percent last time.

FC Stone reports the average butter price equated to about $1.6485/lb. U.S., down from $1.6631/lb. in the May 20 event. It was $1.6083/lb. on 80 percent butterfat, down from $1.6225/lb. CME butter closed Tuesday at $2.26/lb. The Cheddar cheese average was $1.9213/lb. U.S., up from $1.8635/lb.

The U.S. block price Tuesday is at $1.9750/lb. Skim milk powder, at $1.7524/lb. U.S., is up from $1.6933/lb., and the whole milk powder average at $1.6303/lb. U.S., is down from $1.7586/lb. in the last event. The CME Grade A nonfat dry milk price Tuesday stands at $1.8575/lb.


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