Butter prices steady; cheese dipping

Lee Mielke

The cash dairy markets didn’t show much reaction to the Cold Storage report in the three-day Thanksgiving-holiday shortened week.

The Cheddar blocks closed Wednesday at $1.58 per pound, up a penny on the week and reversed two weeks of decline, but were 10 1/4-cents below a year ago.

The Cheddar barrels closed at $1.55, up 4 3/4-cents on the week but 9 3/4-cents below a year ago. Nine cars of block traded hands on the week and 16 of barrel.

The blocks lost a penny and a quarter Monday and three-quarter cents Tuesday and slipped to $1.56. The barrels were down a penny Monday and 2 1/2-cents on Tuesday, sliding to $1.5150 per pound.

Dairy Market News says a lot of milk is available in the Midwest for processing and spot loads were readily available at $3 under class. Demand for commercial cheese used in manufacturing is relatively quiet compared to previous years. “Inventories for cheese blocks are moderate to long and barrels are long but retail consumer cheese demand is still strong.”

Spot butter, after holding 10 consecutive sessions at $2.8850 per pound, gained a penny and a half last Monday on a sale and closed Wednesday at $2.90 per pound, 93 cents above a year ago. The price held at $2.90 Monday and Tuesday, with no activity since Nov. 23.

DMN says butter stocks continue to dictate butter production as manufacturers do not want to produce butter on a speculative basis. “Orders are steady into food service and retail.”

Cash Grade A nonfat dry milk closed Wednesday at 73 cents per pound, down a half-cent on the week, lowest price since August 18, 2015, and 38 1/2-cents below a year ago. Five carloads found new homes on the week.

The powder inched up three-quarter cents Monday on an unfilled bid, with four sales and a bid on Tuesday marching it 4 1/2-cents higher, to 78 cents per pound.

Powder shipments to Mexico are on the rise, according to FC Stone’s Monday Early Morning Update but warns, “We have a feeling it’ll take more than bullish fodder, though, to realize a rally of substance in the short run as inventory levels remain large and will continue to surge.”

Global dairy markets are starving for some good news and this week’s Global Dairy Trade auction may have provided some, as the weighted average for all products offered was up 3.6 percent, following a 7.9 percent drop in the Nov. 17 event, which followed declines in the two previous sessions.

The declines were led by buttermilk powder, down 5.6 percent, following a 1 percent loss last time. Rennet casein was down 4.3 percent, after a 4.4 percent drop last time, and Cheddar cheese was down 1.5 percent, after dropping 5 percent in the last event.

Solidifying its strength, butter led the gainers, up 5.7 percent, following a 5.6 percent rise last time. Most encouraging, perhaps, whole milk powder was up 5.3 percent, after plunging 11 percent in the last GDT. Skim milk powder was up 3.2 percent, following an 8.1 percent drop last time. Anhydrous milkfat was up 2.3 percent, following a 5.9 percent decline last time, and lactose rounded out the gainers, up 1.7 percent, after slipping 2 percent last time.

FC Stone reports the average GDT butter price equated to about $1.3648 per pound U.S., up from $1.2288 in the Nov. 17 event. Contrast that to CME butter which closed Tuesday at $2.90 per pound.

GDT Cheddar cheese equated to about $1.2832 per pound U.S., down from $1.3038 last time, and compares to Tuesday’s CME block Cheddar at $1.56. GDT skim milk powder, at 87 cents per pound U.S., is up from 83.97 cents per pound last time, and the whole milk powder average, at $1.0249 per pound U.S., is up from 97.41 cents per pound in the last event. The CME Grade A nonfat dry milk price closed Tuesday at 78 cents per pound.

Lower feed costs and a higher All Milk price again nudged the October milk-feed price ratio to the highest level since December 2014, at 2.29, up from 2.25 in September, up from 2.11 in August, but well below the 2.92 in October 2014, according to Monday’s Ag Prices report.

The October U.S. average All-Milk price was $17.70 per hundredweight (cwt.), up 20 cents from September but $7.20 below October 2014.

October corn, at $3.67 per bushel, was down a penny from September but 10 cents a bushel higher than October 2014. Soybeans averaged $8.81 per bushel, down 24 cents from September, and $1.16 per bushel below October 2014. Alfalfa hay averaged $156 per ton, down $1 from September, and $37 per ton below October 2014.

The October cull price for beef and dairy cows combined averaged just $89.50 per cwt., down $14.50 from September, $26.50 per cwt. below October 2014, but compares to the 2011 base average of $71.60 per cwt.

The Agriculture Department was to announce the November Federal order Class II, III, and IV milk prices Wednesday. The California Department of Food and Agriculture was scheduled to announce its comparable Class 4a and 4b prices Tuesday but posted on its website that the prices would be announced Wednesday.

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