Dairy cows

Milk production will rapidly rebound, a dairy analyst predicts.

Dairy farmers nationwide eased open the milk spigots in June for a 0.5% increase in production year over year.

The slight growth follows the 0.5% reduction in milk production in May, according to USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service.

May’s production contracted after some processors and cooperatives put supply-management programs in place in response to widespread milk dumping, Matt Gould, editor and analyst with Dairy Market Analyst, said.

The dumping was the result of lost demand and supply-chain disruptions due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Foodservice started picking up into June, and some processors and cooperatives removed or reduced those restrictions to fill demand, he said.

The June uptick in milk production isn’t a reflection of economics so much as more demand and supply restrictions being lifted, he said.

“These are kind of unprecedented times,” he said.

Historically, it takes six months of low margins to see a reduction in milk production, he said.

“This took one month,” he said.

While the national cow count was 31,000 head higher in June than a year earlier, producers reined in production per cow. Nationwide, production per cow grew only 0.2% and was unchanged in the top 24 dairy states. Production per cow in May was down 0.8% year over year.

Per-cow production is a result of the supply restrictions. Because most of those programs were temporary, producers chose management practices rather than culling to reduce production, he said.

They took cows late in their lactation and dried them off early or took concentrates out of the ration for lower producing cows. That way they could bring them back into the herd and ramp up production when demand returned, he said.

While cow numbers in June were above year-ago levels, they were down 10,000 head from May, 25,000 head from April and 35,000 head from March.

The most severe reduction in milk production in June was in New Mexico, where production decreased 43 million pounds and 6.2% year over year on an additional 3,000 cows.

June production also saw some notable increases.

Production in Idaho — the No. 3 dairy state — increased 3.5% and 46 million pounds with 23,000 additional cows but a 5-pound drop in production per cow year over year.

No. 5 Texas bumped production 4.4% and 51 million pounds with 25,000 additional cows and unchanged production per cow.

In all, June production was down year over year in 11 of the 24 leading states, down in 12 and unchanged in one. Cow numbers were down year over year in half of the 24 states, up in 10 and unchanged in two. Production per cow was down in 13 states, up in eight and unchanged in three.

But production is now ramping up, Gould said.

“We’re going to start seeing higher growth,” he said.

By September, it’ll be back like the pandemic never happened, he said.

But there’s a lot of uncertainty about demand in the fall and whether students will go back to school and whether college football will resume, he said.

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