Milk Production

According to BCMS data, March saw births to a dairy dams reach 137,000 head, some 3% higher than the five-year average and the most calf registrations in the month of March since recording began in 2003.  There are a number of possible reasons for the increase and the rise is probably a combination of all of them.  Cows were in good physical condition when they came into season last year, having been housed longer due to the bad winter and being put out to pasture when the grass growth was improving but before the drought had impacted.  The increase may also be due to more businesses switching from all-year-round calving systems to spring block and also those already on a spring block system tightening their calving window.

The result has seen an increase in cows at the peak of their lactation during the spring flush.  UK milk production has been at record levels throughout 2019 so far.  Peak delivery may have been reached earlier than in recent years when a long-term high of 37.74m litres was delivered on 26th/27th April.  Throughout April deliveries were running about 4% above last year’s levels.  During the first quarter of 2019, cumulative production was 3.4% higher than for the same period in 2018.  The increase in production is seeing downward pressure being put on farmgate prices as processors are having to sell unplanned increases in milk deliveries on the spot market at 13-15ppl.

However, globally, milk production is tight and is expected to remain so throughout 2019 which appears to be helping UK farmgate prices to a certain extent.  Margins have been squeezed in Australia, the US and the EU through high input costs and low farmgate prices leading to a reduction in production.  In addition, demand is expected to remain strong from China throughout the year due to the impact of African Swine Fever in the country.  It is thought dairy cows might enter the beef market as the price of beef increases due to the demand for alternative protein sources to replace pork, thereby reducing milk availability in the country.  In the second half of 2019, UK production growth is expected to slow, due to a smaller herd and a drop in fertility, a knock-on effect from the hot summer last year.

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