Herd reduction efforts in Idaho, California, Washington succeed in bringing production down


Capital Press

Fewer cows in the Pacific Northwest and California resulted in less milk production in Idaho, California and Washington in August compared with year-ago levels.

In its Dairy Market News last week, the USDA reported processors in Idaho are actively looking for additional supplies. In California, where milk is running 4 percent to 7 percent below year-ago levels, several processors are encouraging producers to increase milk production or are not enforcing base-plan rules.

Nationwide, August milk production was 0.2 lower than year-ago levels, according to USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service. Cow numbers were down 143,000, but milk per cow was up 25 pounds.

To say milk supplies are tight would be "optimistic," said Wilson Gray, extension economist with the University of Idaho at Twin Falls. "It's a national supply. Basically it really hasn't moved that much. We're still building cheese stocks."

The last Cooperatives Working Together buyout led to August being the first month of decreased production in the past year.

"But that was only two-tenths of a percent," Gray said.

While CWT took out 226,000 cows in the three buyouts over the past year, those were mostly low-end producers, he said.

The three Pacific Northwest states saw about a 2 percent drop in cow numbers in August, but production is about steady.

The Southwest was down 3.8 percent in cow numbers, but only down 0.5 percent in production.

California marked the highest production loss, at 4.5 percent with cow numbers down 3.5 percent.

Reductions in the West and Southwest are being offset by production increases elsewhere, up 4.4 percent in Wisconsin, Michigan and Minnesota and up 3.3 percent in the Corn Belt, Gray said.

"We're going to have to see more cows go before we start to see total production come down," he added.

That said, he doesn't think the latest CWT herd retirement will pull in the numbers it has in the past. The summer reduction took out 74,114 cows and 2,958 bred heifers.

The USDA is set to spend $350 million to help producers, and Gray said he thinks that will influence producers' decisions.

"My suspicion is we're not going to get any more cows than the last time, and probably less," he said. "I think people are going to hold out a little longer and see if things get better."

Staff writer Carol Ryan Dumas is based in Twin Falls, Idaho. E-mail: crdumas@capitalpress.com.

Milk cows

(thousand head)

State 2008 2009

Idaho 555 548

California 1,846 1,782

Washington 245 236

Oregon 115 114

U.S. 8,515 8,372

Production per cow


State 2008 2009

Idaho 1,970 1,940

California 1,840 1,820

Washington 1,990 2,005

Oregon 1,645 1,665

U.S. 1,718 1,743

Milk production

(million pounds)

State 2008 2009 % change

Idaho 1,093 1,063 -2.7

California 3,397 3,243 -4.5

Washington 488 473 -3.1

Oregon 189 190 +0.5

U.S. 14,626 14,594 -0.2


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