From Across the Field – Tough Times in Dairy

Last week I wrote about March Madness and if you have been following the NCAA tournament you know that madness is certainly what has happened in college basketball over the last week. Needless to say but my bracket is busted just like everyone else’s at this point.

When thinking about what to write about this week I thought about a variety of topics from garden planting to bull selection and buying. However, one topic has had the attention of agriculture here as of late, in that of the dairy crisis.

Multiple factors have contributed to the current state of the dairy industry, with the most damaging one being the over production and over supply of fluid milk. In terms of over production, we know that when the national herd is larger than 9 million cows that diary prices suffer. We are currently at 9.4 million cows with many heifers coming down the pipeline partially due to the over use of sexed heifer semen.

Not only are we producing excess milk, but also we are consuming less. In the wake of Dean Foods dropping more than 100 dairy contracts in various states, Dean was quick to point out that we as a nation are drinking a lot less milk. Since 2010, milk consumption is down 3 gallons per capita and 11 gallons fewer than in 1975.

From nutrition standpoint, these numbers seem staggering when you consider that milk is the second most “perfect” food behind only the egg. I had a college professor that when he taught about milk and eggs stressed the nutritional completeness of both foods and it makes sense, as both have the capability to sustain life.

So why a decrease in milk consumption? An increase in consumption of alternative “milk” products, a larger dairy sensitive population have all been suggested, the vegan trend are all contributing factors, but I think we have to take a look at lifestyle changes of our current population. With a somewhat stable population in the U.S., Millennials are expected to outnumber Baby Boomers by 2019. As a Millennial, I can tell you first hand that I don’t drink half of the milk that I did when I was living with my parents or even in college as the change in lifestyle doesn’t allow for it. Now a young professional, I find it tough to drink a gallon of milk in a week’s time, and most of milk that I use is during breakfast. While I tend to drink less milk, my consumption of other dairy products, especially cheese and yogurt is greater than before.

I do not know that there is an immediate answer to the dairy crisis but there are options for producers during this tough time and transition for the industry. Chris Zoller, Extension Educator in Tuscarawas County offers the following: evaluate costs savings, talk to your lender, sell off short-term assets, sell land, look for off-farm employment, or if it is the only option sell the farm. Whichever option producers choose we suggest that they consider any implications and seek outside advice as often these decisions are filled with much emotion.

I’ll end this week with a quote from Mike Rowe, “I’m looking forward to the future, and feeling grateful for the past.” Have a great week.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *