Exciting Times at The Bullvine

Lots of great things are happening at The Bullvine.  As we prepare for an exciting fall season in the dairy industry we are currently upgrading and automating our website to provide a greater experience for you the dairy enthusiast.  These updates will enable us to provide you with even greater content and easier to find just what you are looking for.  The upgrades should be completed by August 6th, 2022.

Milk Production Dips Slightly in May

Nationally, 18.8 billion pounds of milk was produced in the 24 major dairy states for the month of May. That was down 0.6 percent from 2021, but higher than the previous month’s production of 18.3 billion pounds.

California continues to have the highest total production with about 3.65 billion pounds. South Dakota had the greatest percent-increase in output as that state produced 348 million pounds of milk–about 15.2 percent more from the same period last year. Only six of the top 24 states had higher year-to-year production last month.

Meanwhile, the number of milk cows on farms in the 24 major states was 8.91 million head, 84,000 head less than May 2021, but 2,000 head more than April 2022. The average number of milk cows on Wisconsin farms for the month was 1.27 million head–unchanged from last month, but 1,000 less than last year. Monthly production per cow averaged 2,165 pounds, which up 20 pounds from last year’s figures.

Mitch Kappelman Chosen as 2022 Distinguished Young Holstein Breeder

Brattleboro, Vt., June 23, 2022 — For the 2022 Distinguished Young Holstein Breeder, returning home to farm was always a clear choice. Now, 30-year-old Mitch Kappelman manages his family’s dairy, Meadow Brook Farms. Because of his enthusiasm for dairy farming and the Registered Holstein® cow, Holstein Association USA is proud to honor Kappelman with the 2022 Distinguished Young Holstein Breeder award.

Located near Manitowoc, Wisconsin, Meadow Brook Farms milks around 425 cows, three times a day, in a double-nine parallel parlor. The rolling herd average is just over 30,000 pounds of milk, with 1,230 pounds of fat and 927 pounds of protein. They are currently at 4.1% fat and 3.1% protein.

Through the years, Kappelman’s passion for agriculture was ignited as he competed in shows and activities like Dairy Bowl through the National Junior Holstein Association. He attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison and graduated with a degree in dairy science in 2013.

After working as a herd analyst for a couple of years, Kappelman followed his heart back home to the farm. “I loved the genetics side of things and working with other farmers, but there’s nothing like working with your own cows,” he says.

Today, Kappelman is involved in all of the day-to-day activities at Meadow Brook Farms, where his biggest priorities are managing employees and cow health. He is always striving for new genetic goals with his Registered Holsteins, while remaining focused on keeping cows healthy and comfortable.

Kappelman has taken on leadership roles in his local Manitowoc County Holstein Association, serving on the board for six years. He’s also a graduate of Class 10 of the Holstein Foundation’s Young Dairy Leaders Institute (YDLI). As he looks ahead, Kappelman plans to continue his involvement in the dairy industry, both on and off the farm.

“To win this award means that I’m on the right track,” he says. “It means I’m doing good things, but that doesn’t mean I want to stop. I want to keep going, I want to do more, I want to be better. And I’m excited for where that future is going to lead.”

About the Award

The Distinguished Young Holstein Breeder award recognizes significant accomplishments of young Registered Holstein® breeders for their commitment to preserving the dairy industry and for achieving excellence in their daily lives. Mitch Kappelman will be recognized on July 1 during the 2022 National Holstein Convention in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

Dairy Market Report June 2022

Dairy farmers and the entire industry continue to deal with a high-price, high cost environment unlike any seen for at least a decade, and in many ways, not in the past four decades. March and April set consecutive all-time highs for the monthly average all-milk price in the U.S., while the four federal order class prices set a collective record in May. Monthly retail prices of whole and lowfat milk, butter, ice cream and yogurt also reached all-time highs. Meanwhile, monthly U.S. dairy exports posted a strong recovery in April from a recent low in January, amounting to 18.7 percent of U.S. milk solids production, the third highest ever for a single month by this measure. The combination of continued lower U.S. cow numbers, milk production and record-high milk and retail dairy prices is beginning to show signs of impacting domestic dairy product consumption at retail and also food service. However, since retail price inflation is occurring for all food and beverages, and throughout the entire economy, it is unclear how or whether this will play out differently than if higher dairy product prices were an exception in an overall non-inflationary economy.

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Dairy industry looking gouda in South Dakota

June is National Dairy Month, a time to celebrate and honor those working hard in the dairy industry.

South Dakota has become a popular destination for those looking to get their start in the dairy industry.

The Elliott family moved to Lake Norton from Northern Ireland in 2006 to pursue their dream of owning a larger dairy operation.

“We started with 1,400 cows and over the last 16 years we have gradually added and built more barns until now we are at 6,100 milking cows,” said Dorothy Elliott, owner of Drumgoon Dairy.

Now, Drumgoon Dairy is advancing, not only in size, but technology. They added a robotic barn in 2020, making the process of producing around 415,000 pounds of milk per day a little easier.

“It’s been a great learning experience here. I come from growing up milking in a tie-stall barn, to now overseeing the management of a robotic facility so that’s a drastic change, but it’s been very rewarding,” said Andrew Weber, herd manager.

Milk production is continuing to grow in the state, specifically along the I-29 corridor. South Dakota leads the nation in increased milk yield per year.

“South Dakota is unique because of the areas, you know, the size of the lands and even the connections with your neighbors. We have many many spaces, we have availability of resources,” said Maristela Rovai, SDSU extension dairy specialist and assistant professor.

One of the big factors drawing in producers is the dairy production facilities offered on the eastern side of the state, one of which is Valley Queen.

The factory was started in 1929, by Swiss immigrants Alfred Gonzenbach and Alfred Nef.

That year, they processed 3.2 million pounds of milk. Now, Valley Queen is processing 5 to 6 million pounds per day.

“Really it was slow and steady growth through the 50s, 60s and 70s. In the late 80s and early 90s there was a real growth in the I-29 corridor. Dairy has been embraced, we’ve seen dairies from Europe, dairies from Canada, dairies from the west coast from the 90s on moving to the I-29 corridor,” said Brian Sandvig, Chief financial officer, Valley Queen.

While many cheese factories have to travel hundreds of miles to get milk, Valley Queen works with 41 local dairies within 80 miles of the plant. The company also hauls the milk themselves and has employees on site at each dairy every day.

“We get to work with the dairies to improve their systems so they are able to provide us with the highest quality milk, with the best components that we can make our product out of, and then they ultimately benefit from that because we are paying for that milk not just on a volume basis but ultimately on a component basis,” said Sandvig.

This year, Valley Queen began breaking ground on its $195 million expansion project. This project will allow the company to add 140 jobs and bring in milk from 30,000 more cows, bringing production to 8 million pounds of milk processed per day.

“We are in the fortunate spot in between of being able to have increased supply, increasing demand, so we are actively working on a business plan to be able to keep up with that,” said Sandvig.

Those involved expect the dairy industry to continue growing throughout South Dakota in the next few years.

“I think that in a few years, we will be probably having double of the number of cows, we are around 160,000 cows right now. I can envision doubling it for sure,” said Rovai.

“But had someone said to us in 2006, you know by 2022 you’re going to be milking 6,100 cows, I would have been like ‘are you crazy? no that’s never happening’ but here we are today,” said Elliott.

According to the International Dairy Foods Association, in South Dakota the dairy industry has a nearly five billion dollar total economic impact on the state and creates more than 14,000 jobs.


Record Butter Prices May Push Consumers to Cheaper Options and Slow Cheese Production

Prices for retail butter are outpacing nearly all other goods — up 13% YTD according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics — and the worry about its impact on demand is legitimate. Compared to food inflation at 9.4% YoY and inflation of all products at 8.2% YoY on the Consumer Price Index, butter prices rose 16% YoY in April.

With ongoing butter shortages, historically high butter prices are all but certain to continue for the remainder of 2022. Prices have responded to the dwindling supplies as demand shifts. U.S. butter prices traded on the CME have risen 27.3% YTD, helping lift prices for Class IV milk (which is used for butter and powder) above prices for Class III (for cheese and whey) and to new record highs for mailbox milk prices paid to farmers.

While high butter and milk prices are good news in the short term for producers, it’s a problem in the long run. Consumers may be forced to shift to lower-cost store brands, or to butter alternatives like margarine, shortening, and vegetable oils as they face a double whammy of high butter prices right as inflation has muted their spending power. Demand could also deteriorate as consumers buy smaller quantities.

In an interesting twist, butter supplies have tightened despite the highest levels of butterfat production ever in the U.S. milk supply. U.S. butterfat production in 2011 totaled 7.28 billion lbs., with 9.1 million cows producing milk at 3.71% butterfat. By 2021, it had reached 9.07 billion lbs., with 9.4 million cows producing milk at 4.01% butterfat. Changes in cow genetics, dairy cow rations, and herd management have successfully promoted production of butterfat and protein. However, this doesn’t make up for rising demand for higher-fat dairy products, including butter.

Why is butter in short supply?

Increasing costs. U.S. dairy farmers and butter processors are struggling to increase production, thanks to high costs of feed, energy, heifers, and labor. With milk and cream supplies expected to remain tight, competition for scarce milk will put cheese makers at a disadvantage to butter manufacturers that are better positioned to pay higher prices for milk. Especially with Class IV milk now priced well above Class III, cheese processor margins will be squeezed, resulting in slower cheese production. At current price levels, cheese makers will not want to build excess inventories for the months ahead, which will make more milk available for butter churns.

Less milk and tight labor. Some churns are slowing production due to tight U.S. milk supplies and short staffing at plants. U.S. milk production in April totaled 19.15 billion pounds, down 1% YoY. Labor shortages at butter plants have aggravated existing supply issues; Dairy Market News noted that total output at some butter plants has fallen 15%-20% due to shortages in staffing.

More demand for cream. U.S. consumers have shifted their dairy product preferences, putting more demand pull on tight cream supplies. The demand for fluid milk, particularly skim milk, has further declined as consumers eat more milk equivalents per day in the form of cheese and other dairy products. Consumers are also seeking premium fluid milk products, such as organic, lactose-free, A2A2, or filtered milk, or trading up milkfat levels from skim to 2% or whole milk. The demand conversion from fluid milk to American cheese production and other high-fat dairy products has increased the competition for available butterfat, further straining supplies.

Export demand. Resilient export demand is further tightening the U.S. butter balance sheet. The U.S. traditionally is a net importer of butter from countries like Ireland. But through most of 2021 and into 2022, the U.S. has shipped out more butter than it has brought in from foreign producers, as lofty global butter prices make U.S. butter a bargain on the export market. U.S. butter export shipments are now the strongest since 2014 record levels, with Canada, Mexico, the Middle East and South Korea the key destinations.

Record high butter prices in Europe in particular are the driver for the new export demand for U.S. butter. Constrained milk production in New Zealand and Europe due to weather issues, higher feed costs related to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and sustainability initiatives to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture have limited milk and cream supplies available for butter production, thereby lifting prices globally to record highs.

How about rebuilding butter stocks?

Butter inventories in cold storage grew this spring grew only half as much as they should — by 16.8 million pounds, or 6%, from March to April, compared to the normal five-year average increase of 33.2 million pounds. Compared to 2021, U.S. butter inventories are down 23.2% with concerns growing of tighter butter supplies for the second half of the year when butter demand peaks during the holiday season.

Rebuilding stocks later in the year is unlikely. Peak U.S. butter production happens during the “spring flush,” which is now ending. Stocks typically decline through the remainder of the year following the spring build-up. Production in the first quarter of 2022 fell 5.0% YoY to 580.1 million lbs.

Ultimately, retailers like Walmart have already noted greater price consciousness among grocery customers who are trading down from brands to cheaper private labels, and reducing volumes of purchases, including butter. Restaurant traffic is also slowing. OpenTable is reporting a 3.6% YoY decline in restaurant reservations as consumers patronize more affordable fast-casual and quick-serve dining options — which use less butter than white tablecloth restaurants.


Texas Poised to become Third Largest Dairy Producing State

During June – National Dairy Month – Texas dairy farmers and Texas dairy lovers deserve to be toasted with an extra-large glass of milk. Our state is poised to pass Idaho to officially become the third largest dairy producing state in the nation, just over a year after we unseated New York to capture fourth place.

Certainly, Texas dairy farmers deserve to be thanked and honored for their 24/7/365 hard work that achieved this milk milestone. But, on behalf of the Texas Association of Dairymen, which represents those farmers, we recognize that it also wouldn’t have been possible without the consumers, whose love of and appetite for both milk and other dairy products keep our state’s dairy herds busy.

Texas dairy industry has come a long way in the past two decades. In 2002, it produced almost 613.4 million gallons of milk. Last year, milk production topped more than 1.8 billion gallons of milk. While we’ve sadly seen many dairies close, the remaining dairies are getting bigger and cows are producing 10% more than they did a decade ago, thanks to advances in nutrition, animal care and technology.

All that additional milk translates into jobs and a boost to local and state economies.

The news of Texas’ improved ranking is especially celebratory after the past two years. Like many individuals and businesses, Texas dairy farmers endured pandemic challenges, which for them included tough economics, low milk prices and a record winter storm.

Challenges still remain in 2022. While milk prices are up for dairy farmers, elevated costs of feed, fuel, labor and fertilizer are eating away at profits. Mother Nature also has done her part; so far this year dairy farmers have battled heat, wildfires and an ongoing and worsening drought. And a nationwide shortage of truck drivers threatens to impact the availability of transporters to get milk from farm to processor to retailer.

Still, the future generally looks bright for the Texas dairy industry. Milk output should continue to grow. We are currently producing more milk than processors in the state can handle, but new plants are in the planning stages or about to come online. Also, as technology has matured, more Texas dairies are exploring adding equipment to harvest methane gas from dairy waste, enhancing our industry’s commitment to be good environmental stewards.

Texas dairy farmers hope you agree that there’s much to celebrate during National Dairy Month 2022 and that you’ll enjoy our wholesome milk, ice cream, cheese and other dairy products during this special month and beyond.


Source: Darren Turley Executive Director, Texas Association Of Dairymen

Mexican dairy sector faces challenges

US cheese, milk powder consumption, imports remain strong

Mexico’s dairy sector is facing challenges, according to this week’s USDA Foreign Agricultural Service GAIN report, including the rising cost of many inputs.

According to the report, consumers are grappling with growing food inflation and importers are affected by rising global commodity costs. However, cheese and milk powder consumption and imports, particularly from the United States, remain strong.

This report updates Post’s production, supply, and distribution figures from October 2021.


Markets Push Futures Lower in Chicago

On the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, milk futures were down and cash dairy prices were mostly lower Thursday. Class III milk futures were taken lower after the bearish Cold Storage Report. July milk lost 60 cents to $22.95/cwt. August milk declined 48 cents to $23.64/cwt. Class IV prices were mixed.

In the CME spot dairy auction, Dry whey was down $0.0275 at $0.47.  Six sales were recorded from $0.47 to $0.4975. Cheese Blocks were unchanged for the third day at $2.10. No sales were made. Cheese Barrels were also unchanged for the third day at $2.17.  No sales were made. Butter was down $0.01 to $2.95.50.  Six trades were recorded from $2.92 to $2.9550. Nonfat dry milk was down $0.0150 at $1.7950. Three sales were recorded from $1.7925 to $1.80.

Leading dairy farmers managers prioritize data

Today’s leading dairy farm managers use data to drive their farm decisions, streamline operations and grow revenue. With the technology boom, efficiency, connectivity, and software have become necessary.

Dairy is no exception. Instead of being caught off guard, some producers have capitalized on new opportunities and information tools to ensure their farm thrives. Let us look at three questions, the answers to which help leading dairy producers prioritize data management:

1. Does this data enhance cow-related processes by making them more straightforward or precise?
2. Will this data management step impact productivity?
3. Will these technologies enable us to grow?

Data-driven cow care

Animal performance data overwhelms many dairies. Electronics in parlor and activity systems can generate hundreds of data points every day. Genomics and DHIA records offer high-quality information to make decisions. However, information should be integrated into decision-making on the farm without increasing the complexity of work.

Data that provides guidance is relevant and meaningful. Many processes integrate dozens of data points to categorize steps in any protocol. Often the worker is responsible for following multiple steps, and some can be demanding.

Anything that limits the number of data points without impacting the process can be helpful.

Ideally, workers can utilize a single data point on a mobile device to accomplish a task. For instance, breeding lists can have one item that determines the semen type, and it’s possible to update this to reflect the animal’s status. There are many benefits when a single data item can summarize an entire process matrix.

Streamline operations with data

Technicians desire engaging tools that make tasks more manageable. Productive and efficient dairies use electronic data management tools like BoviSync to make processes more robust. Guidance and data entry on a mobile app simplifies data management for workers and technicians alike.

Technology shouldn’t get in the way of work, rather it should enhance how work gets done. Mobile apps allow us to access up-to-date information and capture more data. And by integrating RFID tags, these tools make jobs easier to accomplish without additional data entry steps after completing work.

Grow your revenues with your data

The success of your dairy depends on strategy and execution, underpinned by quality data . Your data management plan needs to accommodate changes to your business plan. Scaling describes how your systems will accommodate these changes.

Choose the right technologies that can scale your business. Traditional premise technology limitations and total costs will often exceed cloud technologies as companies grow. Eliminate the overhead of maintaining on-premise software almost entirely by seeking software that doesn’t require licensing or stringent hardware requirements.

Dairies are no different than other companies. There is a shortage of talent to maintain customized information technology on the farm. You need technology that addresses the people, processes, and controls. Seek out proven solutions to your use cases. Ask how they handle your specific needs.

Scalable data management for dairy herds

BoviSync is a cloud-native software company focused on addressing the people, processes, and controls related to herd management for dairies. The BoviSync mobile app and protocols are customizable to meet any dairy’s requirements for seamless data management. Herd-related data can be integrated from dozens of interfaces. Reporting incorporates insights into processes providing robust controls.

“The comfort level with technology on dairies is highly variable,” says Clay Reese, director of operations for BoviSync. “We are successful when BoviSync is seamlessly integrated into the work on a dairy, regardless of the user’s aptitude with technology.”

The value of the cloud is the ability to leverage data in new ways. Applications like BoviSync allow diverse user types in different settings to take advantage of data without the overhead. Expertise in data management is unnecessary with tight integrations into processes. Web access eliminates much of the IT burden. Consider how data management in BoviSync could change your dairy.


Indonesia foot and mouth disease outbreak worsens

Authorities buy 29 mln vaccine doses

Indonesia will procure 28.7 million vaccine doses for foot and mouth disease by year-end and limit livestock transportation between regions amid a surge in cases, reported Reuters, citing a senior minister on Thursday.

The country launched a nationwide livestock vaccination programme last week, as the disease has been found in 19 of the country’s 34 provinces, with the number of infected livestock growing quickly from 20,000 last month to 232,549 this week. 

Infections have spread ahead of the Eid al-Adha festival, when Muslims traditionally slaughter animals and share the meat with the poor.

“The president instructed that we prepare the medicines immediately and to prepare enough personnel who can vaccinate,” Coordinating Minister of Economic Affairs Airlangga Hartarto said in a statement.

The procurement of 3 million vaccine doses is underway from producers in France, Australia, Brazil and New Zealand, and the government expects to import 16 million doses in the next three months, Hartarto said earlier this week.

The country also aims to buy locally-made vaccines, the production of which is expected to start by the end of August.

About 3,000 cattle had been vaccinated as of Thursday.

Foot and mouth disease is highly transmissible and causes lesions and lameness in cattle, sheep, goats and other cloven-hoofed animals, but does not affect humans.

Lawmakers had accused the government of letting the virus spread widely for the first time since the late 1980s. They have urged the government to ramp up efforts to prevent further spread.

Source: Reuters

Number of U.S. Farms Continues Slow Decline

New data released Tuesday from USDA’s Economic Research Service shows the number of U.S. farms continues to decline slowly. After peaking at 6.8 million farms in 1935, the number of U.S. farms and ranches fell sharply through the early 1970s. Rapidly falling farm numbers in the mid-20th century reflected the growing productivity of agriculture and increased nonfarm employment opportunities.

Since then, the number of U.S. farms has continued to decline, but much more slowly. In 2021, there were 2.01 million U.S. farms, down from 2.20 million in 2007. With 895 million acres of farmland nationwide in 2021, the average farm size was 445 acres, only slightly greater than the 440 acres recorded in the early 1970s.

Meanwhile, technological developments in agriculture have influenced changes in the farm sector. Innovations have enabled continuing output growth without adding much to inputs. As a result, total farm output nearly tripled between 1948 and 2019.


Dutch farmers protest government’s strict nitrogen rules

Farmers are expected to reduce livestock numbers by 30%

Thousands of farmers gathered in a village near the centre of the Netherlands on Wednesday to protest a government plan to curb nitrogen pollution, reported Reuters, many travelling by tractor from all corners of the country and snarling traffic.

The protest in Stroe, 70 kilometres east of Amsterdam, follows the introduction last week of targets for reducing pollution by harmful nitrogen compounds in some areas by up to 70% by 2030 – the latest attempt to solve a problem that has plagued the country for years. 

Reductions are necessary in emissions of nitrogen oxides from farm animal manure and use of ammonia for fertilisation, the government says. Nitrogen oxides in the atmosphere help form acid rain, while fertiliser washed into lakes can cause algal blooms that kill marine life.

Farmers argue the targets are poorly conceived and unfair. They are expected to lead to a 30% reduction in the number of Dutch livestock, with effects more concentrated in agricultural areas bordering nature preserves.

“These reductions are so severe that those rural communities will be totally devastated economically, and that’s the reason our farmers are going to Stroe today” said Sander van Diepen, a spokesperson for agricultural organization LTO.

He said the industry supported reductions which would be evenly distributed across the country and which would also require sacrifices by the transportation and construction industries. They also contribute to emissions of nitrogen oxides.

The Netherlands is one of the world’s largest agricultural exporters. High-intensity farming of cows, pigs and other animals in the densely populated country has made it Europe’s leading emitter of the substances.

The government targets were intended to comply with rulings in 2018 by the European Court of Justice and in 2019 by the Netherlands’ Council of State that found Dutch policies had failed to address the longstanding problem.

In 2020, the government set a national speed limit of 100 kilometres per hour in an attempt to ease emissions. Construction projects are now routinely delayed due to difficulties obtaining licenses covering emission of nitrogen compounds.

Source: Reuters

Dairy prices, volumes fall at auction -GDT Events

International milk prices and volumes fell in this month’s second Global Dairy Trade auction held by GDT Events, reported Reuters.

The GDT Price Index fell 1.3%, with an average selling price of $4,600 per tonne, in the auction held on Tuesday.

The index rose 1.5% at the previous sale, according to GDT Events.

A total of 20,760 tonnes was sold at the latest auction, falling about 3.1% from the previous one, the auction platform said on its website.

The auctions are held twice a month, with the next one scheduled for 5 July.

The auction results can affect the New Zealand dollar NZD= as the dairy sector generates more than 7% of the nation’s gross domestic product. The New Zealand milk co-operative, which is owned by about 10,500 farmers, controls nearly a third of the world dairy trade.

GDT Events is owned by New Zealand’s Fonterra Co-operative Group Ltd, but operates independently from the dairy giant. US-listed CRA International Inc is the trading manager for the twice-monthly Global Dairy Trade auction.

Source: Reuters

US organic dairy squeezed as prices fail to cover costs: ‘There is no economic reason for dairies to transition to organic’

Global organic dairy sales were valued at around US$24bn in 2021 and according to forecasts from Precedence Research worldwide demand is expected to grow at a strong clip in the coming years. The global organic dairy market size is projected to hit around US$53.6bn by 2030 thanks to an expected compound annual growth rate just north of 10%. Demand is being driven by factors ranging from health and wellness (organic milk is high in omega 3 fatty acids and antioxidants, for instance) to perceived sustainability benefits.

But the US dairy industry is not necessarily in the best position to take a leadership role and capitalise on growing global demand, according to Ed Maltby, Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Alliance (NODPA) Executive. “The critical wording here is globally, which will come down to how competitive the US is compared to the other major countries that supply the world market: for example New Zealand and Australia. My assumption is that US has higher costs of production than New Zealand especially with the requirement for pasture,”​ he told this publication.

Indeed, the most recent data from the American Organic Trade Association (OTA) reveals US organic dairy export volumes have consistently fallen since 2017. Since that year, organic fluid milk exports have fallen 76%, down to less than 2,000 MT in 2020. While volumes have plummeted, the value decline is somewhat less pronounced – if still significant. OTA revealed the value of US organic dairy exports has been supported by increased organic whey and organic dry milk product exports. Over 2020, the value of US organic dairy exports reached $4.9m in 2020, down ‘only’ 27% from 2017. 

In 2017, the US organic sector was tarnished by reputational damage after a large-scale fraud orchestrated by Missouri farmer Randy Constant. From 2010 to 2017 thousands of consumers nationwide were fooled into paying more for products they thought were organic. Handing down Constant’s sentence in 2019, US District Judge C.J. Williams said the affair had ‘caused incalculable damage to the confidence the American public has in organic products’. According to Maltby, organic producers are still paying the price.

If the export picture is grim, domestic demand isn’t offering organic dairy farmers any rest bite. Figures from the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service show that in April US sales of organic milk were down 3.4% year-on-year, with the biggest decline seen in flavoured milk, which was down 9.4%. Organic brands and retailers have also decreased the marketing and promotional investment they placing behind the category, AMS noted, with ads down 7% as retailers chose to forego weekly specials for organic dairy.

Milk price doesn’t reflect organic costs

According to Maltby’s analysis of the situation, US organic producers are being squeezed by the high cost of production in the country as well as low prices reflecting a supply surplus that has shaped the market since 2017.

Looking at inputs, Maltby explained access to pasture and feed are critical issues. “Organic raw materials include forage, protein and land for pasture that has been under organic production for three years. Organic corn and soybeans have been affected by world availability; organic soybean has doubled in price this year. In the US the main competitor for organic grain is the poultry industry so this year producers are looking for other sources of organic program. The US is a long way from being able to supply enough organic protein for its domestic organic livestock; organic forage comes mostly from the west and Canada and has been priced higher but not excessively; large organic operations (5-10,000 cows) are purchasing all their feed as there is a shortage of organic pasture at reasonable rent/land value.”

For US dairy farmers to be able to transition to organic, Maltby said there must first be a transition in feed crops like corn, soybean and other grains. “In the most recent past fraud has kept the domestic return of those [grain] crops at a level that does not reflect the increase in cost of production,”​ he said.

A tougher approach from regulators has helped shift the sector in the right direction – but the cost of transitioning grain production to organic is another hurdle would-be organic feed growers need to overcome. “The USDA National Organic Program (NOP) has reduced the amount of fraud, and the price of soy and corn has increased to a level that reflects the cost of transitioning to organic. The three years it takes to transition does cause a loss of income as the grower cannot get the increased price for organic. To incentivize that transition of organic feed, there needs to be a subsidy to cover the increased cost of production and the conventional price while transitioning,”​ the organic dairy expert suggested.

Organic dairy suppliers are in a similar situation, in that higher cost of organic production is not currently reflected in the price they receive. “In order to make organic dairy sustainable there needs to be a pay price that reflects the increased cost of production. Currently the cost of producing organic milk in the northeast averages $37 per cwt. The pay price is currently averaging $31/cwt. Store brand/private label is the biggest seller of retail packaged organic product. These brands are supplied by the large vertically integrated companies in the west and south west and by CROPP Cooperative that source its raw milk from a variety of different size farms. Pay price is set by the price that CROPP can get to compete in the store brand market as approximately 70% of its raw milk supply is sold into the store brand market. The pay price that CROPP pays sets the price for what all organic producers are paid, although recently Danone have cut their pay price below CROPP’s,”​ Maltby detailed.

“The issues around sustainability for the small to mid-size operations (80-1,000 organic cows) hang on how well the USDA NOP enforces the regulations. Inadequate and inconsistently implementation for regulations has allowed the supply side of organic dairy to be exploited by low cost operations that exploit loopholes. Retail sales of organic packaged product are level currently as the market is oversupplied by operations that exploit loopholes in the certification process.”

Put simply, the numbers don’t add up for US organic dairy producers. “Production level of organic cows average between 15-17,000 pounds a year. Cost of purchased feed are usually at least 40% higher than conventional feed. While there are saving on some inputs (herbicide, pesticides, synthetic fertiliser) there are increased costs for others, more hired labour for example. Organic requires at the very least four months of cows being on pasture which adds the cost for rental or land purchase. 

“At this time there is no economic reason for dairies to transition to organic production. Mid-size herds will have difficulty finding a market unless they sell directly to manufacturers. The large dairies have effectively created a surplus that is controlled by their reduced costs of production from economies of scale.”


World’s Biggest Dairy Exporter Forecasts Record Milk Prices

Fonterra Cooperative Group, the world’s biggest dairy exporter, forecast a record milk price for the new season amid strong global demand.

Auckland-based Fonterra on Thursday raised the midpoint of its 2022-23 forecast range by 50 NZ cents to NZ$9.50 ($6) a kilogram of milksolids, which would be the highest price it has ever paid to its 10,000 New Zealand farmer shareholders. It also issued earnings guidance of 30-45 NZ cents per share for FY23, up from 25-35 cents for the current year ending July 31.

“The strong earnings guidance for next financial year reflects an expected recovery in some of the Co-op’s key markets, which have experienced margin pressures this financial year, coupled with ongoing favorable Ingredients margins,” Chief Executive Officer Miles Hurrell said in a statement. “While the Co-op is in the position to be forecasting both solid earnings and a healthy milk price for the next year, significant volatility remains.”

If achieved, the 2022-23 milk price will surpass the Co-op’s forecast midpoint for the 2021-22 season of NZ$9.30. Fonterra normally confirms the season payout at its full-year results announcement in September.

Dairy prices have soared along with other commodities as the world grapples with supply constraints, while the weaker New Zealand dollar should also boost the nation’s export receipts. But higher prices also increase Fonterra’s input costs, putting pressure on its margins.

“Interest rates and inflation have lifted well above our assumptions, as have commodity prices in response to the continued strong demand for dairy,” Hurrell said. “These input cost increases are impacting the cost of our debt in the short term and have also pushed on-farm costs up.”

As the higher milk prices lift working capital, Fonterra’s overall debt position has the potential to trend higher, he said.


Wisconsin Milk Production Rose Slightly During May

Wisconsin’s total milk production was up fractionally in May compared to the same period a year earlier. According to the USDA’s latest milk production report, Wisconsin farmers produced 2.75 billion pounds during the month, which was a slight 0.8 percent higher from last May, and higher than the 2.64 billion made in April 2022 (which had less days on the calendar).

Nationally, 18.8 billion pounds of milk was produced in the 24 major dairy states for the month. That was down 0.6 percent from 2021, but higher than the previous month’s production of 18.3 billion pounds.

California continues to have the highest total production with about 3.65 billion pounds. South Dakota had the greatest percent-increase in output as that state produced 348 million pounds of milk–about 15.2 percent more from the same period last year. Only six of the top 24 states had higher year-to-year production last month.

Meanwhile, the number of milk cows on farms in the 24 major states was 8.91 million head, 84,000 head less than May 2021, but 2,000 head more than April 2022. The average number of milk cows on Wisconsin farms for the month was 1.27 million head–unchanged from last month, but 1,000 less than last year. Monthly production per cow averaged 2,165 pounds, which up 20 pounds from last year’s figures.

Source: Wisconsin Ag Connection

Energy ‘wake-up call’: rural power hacks keeping the farm gates open

When dairy farmer Paul Mumford milks his herd outside Yarram in Victoria’s South Gippsland early in the morning and late in the afternoon, he’s keenly aware it coincides with peak energy use for the rest of the population.

“That doesn’t sit extremely well with the natural flow of the energy use from the grid, because those times are when children are going to school, households are waking up and using energy before and after work,” he says.

The president of United Dairyfarmers of Victoria, Mumford says energy is one of the biggest costs for dairy farmers.

It’s just not an option to milk 200 cows by hand, and milking the cows twice a day is imperative for his animals’ welfare.

A year ago the property lost power for six days in two separate wind storms.

“I survived OK because my farm has onsite power generation which connects to my tractor,” he told Guardian Australia.

The turning spline on Mumford’s diesel tractor creates a power take-off that turns a generator and creates energy for his dairy shed.

However, he says the power outage caught his neighbours out, two of whom had to bring their herds to Mumford’s dairy operation to be milked.

He says there’s been an expectation that the electricity would always be there, but for his area the storms were a “big wake-up call”.

“Because it’s mandatory to milk cows regularly twice a day, [the storms] left a whole lot of farmers vulnerable.”

Dairy cows near Tamworth, New South Wales.
Dairy is vulnerable because it needs to keep the milk at a certain temperature. Photograph: Loren Elliott/Reuters

Mumford says farmers are generally looking at reducing the risk of power outages and shortages to their business, and on-farm power generation is a big part of that.

‘An expensive endeavour’

While energy costs are hitting agricultural industries hard, their vulnerability to energy supply has seen farmers develop unique hacks – and rediscover old ones – to keep the power going without the grid.

Ash Salardini, the chief economist at the National Farmers’ Federation, says that dairy, intensive horticulture and irrigation are the industries most exposed to wholesale market prices, which have gone up anywhere between 100% to 140%.

Salardini says while irrigation is better placed to manage their electricity use as they can pump water at different times, horticulture and dairy are more vulnerable because they need to regulate their produce at certain temperatures.

“Imagine how much electricity your fridge uses. Now imagine you have to cool down 300,000 litres of milk. That’s an expensive endeavour,” Salardini says.

He says for intensive horticulture’s climate-controlled greenhouses, “that’s the equivalent of running a reverse-cycle conditioner in an area that might be the size of 50 football fields.”

According to Salardini, before the current energy crisis, a typical dairy farmer would have been paying $150,000 in electricity costs a year, but the annual cost would now be up to $250,000.

Whether farmers feel the effects of the price spikes immediately depends on when their contract is due to be renewed.

‘A confluence of factors’

Kevin Coady, a wheat farmer outside Dubbo in the New South Wales Orana region, still has a petrol-driven generator he says was more common for farmers to have 20 years ago when blackouts were more frequent.

“Nearly everyone on a farm had a back-up generator back then,” he says.

Solar panels on the outskirts of Canberra.
More farmers are turning to renewable energy such as solar. Photograph: Mick Tsikas/AAP

However, he says the blackouts don’t occur as often anymore and generators are not as common as they used to be.

Yet Salardini says regional areas have often been more liable to energy shortages and farmers can lose an entire day or week’s worth of work if they don’t have refrigeration.

According to him, more farmers are turning to on-farm sources of renewable energy including solar, batteries and even biodigesters, which turn waste to energy.

Moxey dairy farm at Gooloogong, west of Cowra in the NSW central west, moved to address rising electricity costs back in 2018 by using the gas from cow manure to generate 100% of its power needs.

Salardini says farmers are some of the biggest users of photovoltaic energy.

Winery owners are turning to solar energy too.
Winery owners are turning to solar energy too. Photograph: Carly Earl/The Guardian

Justin Jarrett, the co-owner of See Saw Wines in the central tablelands’ Orange region powers his winery during the day using solar energy. He doesn’t currently have storage capacity for the energy, but tells Guardian Australia that battery storage is the operation’s next step.

Salardini says that energy efficiency measures also need to be considered alongside power generation.

Stuart Crossthwaite, a dairy farmer in the Kiewa Valley in north-east Victoria, conducted an energy audit, finding that 40% of his dairy’s energy use is to heat hot water for cleaning, 40% to cool the milk and 20% to run equipment.

Crossthwaite realised that a heat exchanger method would allow him to use the heat from the milk to warm the water that cleans his dairy.

As much as farmers try to keep electricity costs at bay, Salardini says the rising cost of energy is just one factor that is pushing farm gate prices up.

Other cost pressures include fuel and freight price hikes and the impact of workforce and workforce shortages.

“That’s why we are seeing food price inflation in the supermarkets,” he says.

“It’s a confluence of factors, but electricity price is definitely one of them.”


Canadians to pay more for milk, dairy products as prices increase again

The price of milk in Canada is on the rise again with the second increase this year set to take place in September. 

The farm gate price will increase by about two cents per litre as of Sept. 1, an increase of 2.5 per cent.

The rate hike was announced Tuesday afternoon by the Canadian Dairy Commission (CDC), a crown corporation that says the sector is dealing with higher prices due to inflation.

“It’s certainly bad news for consumers. It’s bad news for families with children, since the increase will happen in September when back to school happens and when demand for fluid milk actually goes up,” said Sylvain Charlebois, a professor of food policy at Dalhousie University.

The mid-year price increase is being done under “exceptional circumstances,” the CDC said. Milk pricing is typically adjusted just once per year. 

“The increase in producers’ revenues will partially offset increased production costs due to inflation. Feed, energy, and fertilizer costs have been particularly impacted, with increases of 22 per cent, 55 per cent and 45 per cent respectively since August 2021,”  read a news release from the CDC.

The first price increase for the farm gate price of milk this year happened on Feb. 1 when costs increased by six cents per litre, or about 8.4 per cent. This second price increase will impact the retail price of all dairy products, the group said.

“The adjustment will increase by 2.5 per cent on average the price for milk used in the manufacture of dairy products such as milk, cream, yogurt, cheese and butter intended for the retail sector and the foodservice industry,” the CDC said. 

Charlebois said Alberta could see some of the higher increases of milk prices in the fall at the consumer level. Milk and dairy prices in Alberta have been typically lower than compared other Canadian jurisdictions, but the latest news could correct that.

“Prices have actually gone up in Alberta in recent months. We’re expecting that momentum to continue, unfortunately,” he said. Charlebois added that the price of dairy milk in Alberta could align with or even exceed prices of dairy alternatives, such as almond or soy milk in the province.

The latest price increase will be deducted from the regular adjustment, slated to take place next February, the CDC said. The last time two milk price hikes happened in the same year was 2018, according to the commission.


Trying a different approach to dairying

A North Waikato farmer who has always wanted to have a closer relationship with the people who consume his milk, is now doing just that.

Chris Falconer who milks 320 cows on his Waeranga dairy farm can now have that level of engagement after becoming the first North Island supplier of startup milk company Happy Cow Milk (HCM).

His 255ha farm is selling a small portion of his production under the HCM banner, while the bulk of his production goes to Synlait.

It’s a 12-month trial that allows him to sell that part of production directly to consumers. He says that kind of engagement was not possible in a system where farmers’ milk was collected and sold to a mass market because consumers do not know where their milk has come from.

“It’s homogenised – both literally and figuratively – so there’s no differentiation with any of the milks you buy. It’s literally all the same milk,” Falconer says.

“There’s not enough differentiation to make a real meaningful difference in terms of your product. My milk goes into the same vessel as everyone else’s milk.”

If his value proposition for his milk was higher than other suppliers in the district, then he would still be paid what those suppliers are paid, he says.

Falconer had been watching HCM founder Glen Herud’s early progress with interest.

Those principles, which are based on keeping calves with the cows and milking once a day (OAD), resonated with him.

About two years ago, he contacted Herud and started discussing the possibility of working with him.

“Glen was interested in farmers who had control of their own system and roughly aligned with what he was interested in.”

HCM’s original concept had Herud operating a mobile milking shed where he milked a small herd of cows, processing and distributing the milk himself.

Chris Falconer in his dairy shed
Chris Falconer is involved in a trial that involves supplying milk to Synlait and directly to consumers.

Herud says the system lasted for three years before folding because its processing and distribution system was too inefficient. The revamped version of HCM has resolved many of those issues, he says.

“It was a combination of growing fast and not being able to sort out that inefficiency problem and we ran out of cashflow and we shut down,” he says.

Followers of HCM were so upset by the shutdown that he managed to get $1 million in crowdfunding to relaunch. Falconer was one of those people who contributed to that funding.

That cash allowed him to solve those issues.

“Everything’s designed to be as efficient as possible. The setup that Chris’s got allows him to do with one person what it took us three people to do,” he says.

The conversations between Herud and Falconer continued until Herud needed a trial farm to properly test the system, which Falconer agreed to for the next 12 months.

Retaining his supply to Synlait allows him to manage risks around the seasonal fluctuations of milkflow. He says they have been very supportive of him supplying HCM.

Once HCM becomes more established, he expects as much as 1000 litres would be sent to HCM customers.

Any more than that would require careful management as he wants to be able to choose customers that are aligned with his values too.

“We want to be selling milk to people who are respecters of what we do. That is also helpful when coming to a commercial arrangement because they value that,” he says.

In order for a farmer to do that, he has to be able to offer a product with attributes people are willing to pay for.

To that end, he is very open about how he produces milk.

Dairy cow with calf in paddock
The Happy Cow principles are based on keeping calves with the mothers and milking once a day.

He milks his 320-cow herd OAD and starting in the new season, will be switching from split-calving to calving three times a year to maintain a steady year-round milk supply.

He uses no chemical fertilisers, instead applying 200-250 tonnes of chicken manure annually to his paddocks.

No supplementary feed such as palm kernel apart from homegrown baled grass silage and hay and a small amount of grain in the dairy shed, which is used to entice the cows to consume mineral dosages.

There’s no cropping or blanket spraying using chemicals. It is as close to organic as it can be without the certification, he says.

Falconer farmed organically in the UK for five of the nine years he spent in that country before returning to New Zealand and sharemilking. He and wife Sheila bought this farm eight years ago.

One of the drivers to switch to OAD milking was that Sheila works full-time as a nurse in Hamilton and that system freed them up so she could complete her nursing degree while they raised their three children.

“To be able to deliver the life that she wanted, the farm had to be able to deliver that as well,” he says.

“There’s no point in setting up a farm system where it drives what everyone does.”

He has slightly modified his milking shed to enable his milk line to bypass his vat and fill specially designed milk kegs that pasteurised the milk to fulfil HCM orders when required. MPI then inspected the shed in late April to make sure it met food safety standards, given that he was now selling a food product direct from his farm.

His first invoice arrived early May. Falconer says that was a special moment for himself and for Herud. There are lots of stories of startup businesses that sucked up investor money, but then failed to make a return. That invoice marked the beginning of the phase where HCM would start to earn revenue.

Chris Falconer in his dairy shed
Chris Falconer has set up his shed to bypass the main vat so milk is diverted to specially designed milk kegs that pasteurise the milk to fulfil HCM orders when required.

The in-shed system for HCM has an inline tap connected to his milk line in his 40-aside herringbone shed, which allows him to divert milk to a mini processing hub within the shed.

“It’s all self-contained. Once you fill the cans, you press a button and each of the cans has its own processing unit on top,” he says.

A smaller vat used for overflow or colostrum was removed and in its place was a cabinet housing the shelves where the HCM kegs are stored.

“Nothing changes except we have the Happy Cow tap at the dairy,” he says.

He also tests the milk in the same manner a tanker operator does when it enters the cans. He says the milk has around 5.4% fat and 4.4% protein, which is slightly higher on both percentages than standard blue top milk.

These cans resemble a beer keg with a stainless-steel water jacket on the outside of it and come in 60l and 180l sizes. It has an inlet and outlet pipe that heats the water so pasteurisation takes place before pumping cold water in the jacket to cool the milk.

The system is also connected to his internet, alerting him if there is an issue, such as a power failure.

“It’s remarkably simple and easy to operate,” he says.

The can is then stored in a chiller in the shed until it is transported to the customer. A specially designed pump and tap is connected to the can to allow the customer to pour the milk as required.

Things will get refined and get better, volumes will build and we’ll have a brand that we can leverage for other things.

Chris Falconer

Falconer controls that relationship with customers rather than HCM, which is the processor. It receives a 17.5% royalty payment for the milk Falconer sells. Its revenue model is based on a portion of his sales.

“There’s a clear distinction. We own the brand, we own the market and the customer relationship,” he says.

His first customer is St Paul’s Collegiate School in Hamilton, where he supplies milk for the school’s meals as often as required. The school uses about 200l a day, seven days a week, which is all of Falconer’s capacity as it stands.

“The great thing about it is that it’s a soft launch because we don’t have an individual customer interface,” he says.

The school’s timetable structure is well-signalled in advance, meaning he can easily plan when demand for the milk will be high.

The school was also a good fit with Falconer’s values. It has an agribusiness school, had policies encouraging students to learn about farming and provided those students opportunities to learn about how milk was made.

Aerial shot of Waikato dairy farm
The farm’s terrain has a mix of everything from flat areas, rolling hills to steeper country. It usually gets good pasture growth through winter.

He will also look further afield for other customers including cafés and restaurants. The 60l cans are ideal for cafés, while the larger cans would be suitable for customers such as St Paul’s.

The capital outlay to get and install the machinery in the shed is minimal because he is a trial farmer. All of the hours he has put into the venture is viewed as in kind, however, there will be a cost to expand beyond the trial, he says.

Falconer is transitioning his system to enable the calves to stay with their mothers starting in the new season.

Before he embraces that system, he wants to ensure the business proposition is sound.

“The proof has to be in the processing and the sale. We have to be able to prove the sales model before we go to that,” he says.

“Some are being kept with their mums as a trial, but we are not going boots and all until the processing is settled because that would be putting the cart before the horse.”

The one change he is making is modifying the gates in the holding yards next to the milking shed. The lower half of the gate will be changed so it can swing open to give the calves access if they choose.

He got the idea from watching gauchos on a farm in South America who used a half-gate in a corral out in a paddock to allow calves access to their mothers while keeping the cow temporarily confined.

“We did an experiment last year using half a dozen cows with calves and the experience was that if you try and make the calf do what you want it to do, you get an upset calf and an upset cow,” he says.

It should allow the cow to be safely milked while at the same time, letting the calf be present if it chooses to be without it being spooked. He will also create a space in the yards for the calves where they have access to food.

Every calf is different and this system respects that. Some wanted to stay close to their mothers, others did not and having this gate should allow enough freedom for the calves to come and go as they please in the yards, he says.

“We all know that animals have traits and personalities and we try to ram that round peg into a square hole every single time. Let’s not do that and let them choose,” he says.

Chris Falconer in paddock with calf
Falconer plans to split calving into three different periods in the new season to reduce the load of calves at foot and to make managing calves around the shed easier. No replacements are reared, only beef animals which are sold to the markets.

“Within reason, I’m happy for them to do what they want to do.”

He plans to split calving into three different periods in the new season, to reduce the load of calves at foot and to make managing calves around the shed easier.

It will see a different part of the herd calve in six-week blocks on August 1, mid-November and late March – the latter of which has just completed. In the past, calving ran for nine weeks using a split-calving system.

The herd is a crossbred herd and he does not rear replacement cows, instead buying in new cows when required.

He reduced it from 430 to 320 cows a few seasons ago. This has pushed up production on a per cow basis from 295-330kg MS, with the herd’s overall production at 105,000kg MS.

Instead, he mates all of his cows to beef genetics, farms the calves and sells them as yearlings to beef finishers.

Mindful of some customers’ perceptions of AI, he tried using bulls only for two seasons, but found they did not mate all of the herd and created health and safety issues on the farm.

Now around 85% of the herd are inseminated using Speckle Park and low birth EBV Hereford bulls for the remaining 15%, which are kept on the farm.

Most of the calves are weaned and sold 12-14 months into the store cattle market for beef finishers. The beef market really liked the Speckle Park calves, achieving top prices at every sale the calves are sent to. A small number are sold at 14 days old.

The farm’s terrain has a mix of everything from flat areas, rolling hills to steeper country. It usually gets good pasture growth through winter, with the toughest periods being February and March, which is why the district is sometimes called ‘Dry-renga’.

He cuts grass silage in spring, producing around 500-600 bales, which are fed out from January usually to March. This season has been so dry it forced him to keep feeding out the bales right through into May. A small amount of in-shed feed is used as an inciter for the cows to consume mineral supplements.

He is in the process of retiring 50ha of the back corner of the farm, which will be regenerated into native bush.

That process has started with the help of Waikato Regional Council.

“We started planting when we got here, we’ve planted around 15,000 so far and this will add another 60,000-70,000,” he says.

Chris Falconer in wetland on his farm
Falconer is in the process of retiring a 50ha of the back corner of the farm, which will be regenerated into native bush. So far, 15,000 natives have been planted.

The farm has excellent effluent infrastructure with all-year-round storage capability, allowing for targeted irrigation onto paddocks for optimal use.

“We’re never forced to spread. We tend to spread in November because that’s when you get the most uptake of nutrients,” he says.

Falconer likes to see regulations in the rear-view mirror rather than getting in a cycle of having to adjust when they land.

Regulations work so slowly that by the time that adjustment has been made, society has moved on, requiring a further adjustment to be made.

“We invest for 10-20 years on the farm and you don’t want to invest just to get to the line only for the line to change in two to three years’ time because then you’re chasing it,” he says.

As a result, he keeps a close eye, but does not obsess over his carbon and nitrogen footprints. The latter currently sits at around 14kg N/ha/year, which is similar to a sheep and beef farm.

His carbon footprint is 7.2 carbon dioxide equivalents per kilogram of milksolids.

He says he is more concerned he will end up subsidising other farmers under the He Waka Eke Noa climate change plan.

“Farmers say there are a lot of regulations coming down the pipeline, but so many of them are linked. There’s a lot of crossover and I have never made a single decision for climate change on this farm. But I make decisions for soil, for water and for stocking rate,” he says.

“What spits out at the end just happens to be good for climate change, but it never drives it. If it drove it, I’d plant the whole thing in pines.”

For now, he is taking a steady as it goes approach to HCM as it gets bedded into the farm system.

“Things will get refined and get better, volumes will build and we’ll have a brand that we can leverage for other things. We have veal that we can sell directly to restaurants and we’re looking at finishing a small number of beef animals to go out to restaurants as well,” he says.

“And because we have our own label established for our milk and that’s going to be our overarching label for all products selling directly off the farm.”

Herud says they want to make sure everything is working as it should on Falconer’s farm before possibly taking on other farmers.

While there are a handful of other farmers interested in NZ, much of the interest has come from overseas.

“We have a farmer in California waiting, we have a farmer in Australia waiting and some in the Netherlands and Sweden,” he says.

“We’ll raise some more capital later this year and then basically fulfilling all those farmers overseas and New Zealand who want it.”

Farm fact box

Owner: Chris Falconer, Pukerua Farm
Location: Waerenga, North Waikato
Farm size: 255ha
Herd: 320 cows, crossbreed
Production: 2021-22 105,000kg MS
Target: 2022-23: 105,000kg MS


Banking and dairy farm development very much interlinked

What happens with dairy farm development very much depends on borrowing money.

Medium- to long-term plans are put in place by the farmer as capital development takes years to do.

What cows can be milked, what milk supply can be sold and what stock can be sold very much ties in with a business plan and what the repayment capacity for any borrowing is.

That’s why when there is any change to the goalposts to reduce milk supply or output, it can have big consequences on the farm business.

Coming off the brakes

This year in Ireland, we have seen the brakes that were imposed last year on some dairy farms come off already, as milk supply is back.

Glanbia and Strathroy have pulled back on restrictions or two-tier pricing that they had planned on introducing.

Some farmers sold stock and now they can’t produce more milk when it is needed.

You can’t assume farmers are going to do what they have always done

This very much highlights why any change to a production system must be gradual and over a period of years.

You can’t assume farmers are going to do what they have always done and things change as the cost of doing business changes. This year, we have seen a fundamental change in the cost of farming in Ireland.

Dutch double

The same issue is now happening in the Netherlands. Last week, the Dutch minister for nitrogen suggested that there needs to be big structural change on some farms to the extent of reducing livestock numbers considerably. Farmers will protest in the streets next week.

Next, you would expect Rabobank will tighten the reins on financing. The Dutch are highly borrowed relative to Irish farmers.

There were some rumours that Rabobank would stop financing some farmers.

Rabobank has not commented officially on the matter just yet, but I assume it is going through the same issues that farmers are going through – trying to establish what makes sense from an environmental and sustainable business perspective.

There is a real need for caution from politicians, law makers and businesses to make careful change when fundamental changes are being suggested that impact on farm family livelihoods up and down the country.


Steady Markets in Chicago Wednesday

On the Chicago Mercantile Exchange milk futures were up and cash dairy prices were steady to up Wednesday. June Class III milk was unchanged at $24.31.  July closed up $0.28 at $23.55.  August closed up $0.26 at $24.12.  September was up $0.38 at $24.11.  October through May contracts ranged from five cents higher in February to thirty-two cents higher in November.

In spot trade, Dry whey was down $0.01 at $0.4975.  Four sales were recorded from $0.4975 to $0.51. Cheese Blocks were unchanged at $2.10. No sales were made. Cheese Barrels were unchanged at $2.17.  No sales were made. Butter ended its downhill slide going up $0.0350 to $2.96.50.  Nine trades were recorded from $2.9150 to $2.9650. Nonfat dry milk was unchanged at $1.81. No sales were recorded.

Holstein Association USA Announces 2022 Elite Breeder Award Recipient

Brattleboro, Vt., June 21, 2022 — The Registered Holstein® herd at Sandy-Valley Farms in Scandinavia, Wisconsin, has achieved the sought-after balance of cattle with high type and genomic value. Their herd’s elite genetics have performed well not only at Sandy-Valley Farms, but also across the nation and throughout the world.

Holstein Association USA is pleased to honor the Bauer brothers of Sandy-Valley Farms with the 2022 Elite Breeder Award. The influence of their herd’s top-notch genetics on the progress of Registered Holsteins is a testament to their dedication and hard work over the years.

Although the family is no longer farming, the positive contributions Sandy-Valley genetics have had on the Holstein breed will leave a lasting influence. The four Bauer brothers — Frank, Patrick, David, and Greg — worked together to achieve their goals, along with Frank’s children, Danae and Ethan.

The familys commitment to breeding high-quality genetics led to much success for Sandy-Valley Farms over the years. “With the Registered Holsteins, there is tremendous opportunity to market your genetics,” Greg Bauer says.

This includes both cows and sires. Sandy-Valley developed an outstanding set of high index animals over the years, including two number one TPI® bulls, a number one CTPI cow, and a number one GTPI female.

Sandy-Valley Farms bred an impressive 107 Dams of Merit and 106 Gold Medal Dams, including 46 cows receiving both distinctions. They also bred 10 Gold Medal Sires and a total of 186 Excellent females and males. In 2019, Holstein International recognized them as number six on the “25 Most Influential Breeders of the Last 25 Years” list, as selected by their readers.

The Bauer brothers’ thirst for knowledge and determination to find the best mating resulted in a uniform group of cows with flawless udders, sound feet and legs, and solid production. “Our main goal was to breed a cow the commercial dairyman could respect and the type oriented breeder could admire,? Bauer says. “We wanted our cows to fit both categories.”

About the Award

The Elite Breeder award is bestowed annually upon a living Holstein Association USA member, family, partnership or corporation who has bred outstanding animals and made a notable contribution to the advancement of U.S. Registered Holsteins. The Bauer family of Sandy-Valley Farms will be recognized during the 2022 National Holstein Convention July 1 in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

Wendon BSD Windbrook Merry Tops the Pierstein Elite Select Sale at $300,000

Pierre Boulet and Katie Coates hosted the Pierstein Elite Select Sale 2022 in late May with Wendon BSD Windbrook Merry topping the sale at $300,000.  Merry was the 2nd 5-year-old and HM Grand Champion at the Canadian National Convention Show.  Her EX94-2E dam was All-Western Mature Cow 2016 and is a result of the great Goldwyn x Dundee cross. She completes 9 generations VG or EX from then Wendon Startdust Mirabel EX 3E cow family. She is also Canada’s newest EX95 cow with an EX95 udder.  160 head enter the sale ring and finished off the day with a sale average of $13.393.

Lot 36 Wendon BSD Windbrook Merry $300,000
Consignor: Pierre Boulet, QC
Buyer: Jim Butler, IL

Lot 136 Londan Dairy Jangles $195,000
Consignor: London Dairy Farms / Clarkvalley Holsteins, ON
Buyer: Elmvue Farm, NY

Lot 138 Golden-Oaks Master Leddy $140,000
Consignor: Eaton Holsteins / Pat Conroy / Clarkvalley Holsteins, ON
Buyer: Jim Butler, IL

Lot 41 Pierstein Devour Roula $130,000
Consignor: Pierre Boulet / Ferme Jacobs, QC
Buyer: Elmvue Farm, NY

Lot 34 Premium Apple Crisp Lilly $100,000
Consignor: Francis Morneau, QC
Buyer: Juniper Farm, ME

Lot 119 Cobequid Alister Schnapple $47,000
Consignor: Mauranne Hébert / Bay Holsteins, QC
Buyer: Westcoast Holsteins, BC

Lot 163 163 Holzer Warrior Princess $39,000
Consignor: Clarkvalley Holsteins / Adam Clark, ON
Buyer: Westcoast Holsteins, BC

Lot 112 Pierstein Douglas Evening $38,000
Consignor: Pierre Boulet, QC
Buyer: Granron Holsteins, ON

Cores of Kentucky Named 2022 AJCA Master Breeders

Jeff and Alta Mae Core, Salvisa, Ky., have been named the 79th recipients of the Master Breeder award of the American Jersey Cattle Association (AJCA). The Cores operate Keightley-Core Jersey Farm, a 70-cow Registered Jersey herd, with their children, Brooke, Brady and Brittany, and their families and breed cattle using the KCJF prefix.

The Master Breeder award is bestowed annually to a living AJCA member, family, partnership, or corporation that, in the opinion of the Board of Directors, has bred outstanding animals for many years and thereby made a notable contribution to the advancement of the Jersey breed in the United States.

Jersey breeders could argue the semantics of what constitutes “outstanding animals,” quite literally, until the cows come home. But most would agree, Keightley-Core Jersey Farm embodies the concept. In a nutshell, KCJF is a herd of Registered Jerseys that pays the bills and looks good doing it.

With their cows, the Cores have won nearly every conceivable piece of hardware on the tanbark trail and earned countless awards for production. They have sent bulls to A.I. and marketed cattle that have thrived for other breeders across the globe. Jeff and Alta Mae have been recognized by their peers for achievement and service, passed their passion for Jersey cattle to their children, and laid the groundwork for future generations to continue the Keightley-Core legacy of farming.

Their story is also a real life, cow farming fairy tale. Jeff hails from a Jersey farm in Iowa, Alta Mae from a Jersey dairy in Kentucky. In the early years, what they had in common was a love of showing cattle. In the late-1970s, they traveled with their families to Louisville, Ky., for The All American Jersey Show and met, an encounter that shaped the future for them both. They married in 1980 and got a start dairying on the farm owned by her parents, the late A. J. and Adelene Keightley, in McAfee, Ky. They purchased the 250-acre farm in Salvisa in 1987 and farmed with her mother upon the passing of her father.

“Is there a more storied beginning to such recognizable breeders than meeting and falling in love at The All American Jersey Show,” wrote daughter Brooke Powers of Lexington, Ky., secretary/treasurer of the Kentucky Jersey Cattle Club.

From that moment on, they have shone in many facets of the dairy world, continued Powers. But hands down, their biggest moments have come at the bedrock of their avocations, The All American Jersey Show.

This resume includes seven Premier Breeder banners, two Premier Exhibitor banners, three National Grand Champions, a homebred National Grand Champion, six NASCO Type and Production Winners, and two Genomic Jersey Performance Index (GJPI) Grand Champions. In the National Jersey Jug Futurity, the Cores have shown three homebred winners and a reserve winner and bred four of the top 10 cows in the 2019 class. As well, Brady showed a four-time Junior National Grand Champion, Brooke took home four banners for Reserve Junior National Grand Champion, and Brittany exhibited a Reserve National Grand Champion.

Alta Mae and Jeff teamed as officials for the open show in 2004, her as judge and him as associate. Three years later, she judged the national futurity. Together they received the Max Gordon Memorial Award in 2014 and are long-serving members of the All American Show Committee. Brady judged the futurity in 2021.

Among those who have served with and competed alongside the family since he was a teenager is Corey A. Lutz, Piedmont Jerseys, Lincolnton, N.C. “I don’t remember a time when the Keightleys and Cores were not at our national show in Louisville and in the hunt to win their classes.”

The Keightleys have shown at The All American every year since 1968 and were early supporters of the National Jersey Jug Futurity, exhibiting their first entry in 1963 and winning the class in 1983.

“When you compete at a national show, you know that you will have to beat cows from this herd to win a class,” noted Wilfrid, Walter and Roger Owens, Frederic, Wis., fellow recipients of the Master Breeder award. Even more remarkable, most are homebred, a feat that is increasingly uncommon, the brothers continued.

“Generally, when KCJF comes up, people tend to think ‘show cows,’” wrote another Master Breeder recipient, Paul Chittenden, Dutch Hollow Farm Inc., Schodack Landing, N.Y. “My respect for this family does include their success in the show ring. But more that that is the fact that, like most of us, they pay their bills with the milk check.”

Their “fancy” herd of cows has ranked nationally for production on multiple occasions and today has a lactation average (m.e.) of 18,238 lbs. milk, 928 lbs. fat and 683 lbs. protein on 68 lactations. In the milking string is winner of this year’s Ogston Trophy for lifetime milk production and Edyvean Farm Trophy for lifetime protein production, 4W Pusher Lizzie, Excellent-94%. The matriarch has been the herd’s top producer four of the past six years and has 336,012 lbs. milk, 14,558 lbs. fat and 11,975 lbs. protein in 4,418 days.

As one might expect, the appraisal scores on the Keightley-Core cows are something to brag about too. In the past 35 years, the Cores have bred 238 cows appraised Excellent-90% or higher. The highest-appraised cow in this group, KCJF Regency Treasure, is just one of seven in breed history to be appraised Excellent-97%. “Treasure” is backed by a Core-bred sire (Renaissance Kims Regency) and dam. She was tapped 2008 Reserve National Grand Champion and made more than 163,000 lbs. milk lifetime. Of her 14 registered progeny, eight sons were used as herd sires at KCJF, including KCJF Whistlers Tracer, sire of 2012 National Jersey Jug Winner, KCJF Tracer Ritzy, Excellent-91%.

Today’s herd has an appraisal average of 89.7% and includes 41 Excellent and 28 Very Good cows. The high-scorers are a pair of Excellent-96% cows that were purchased in 2015: Hirds Colton Dream and Dreamroad TBone Clumsy. In the Jersey world, “Dream” needs no introduction. She was named Reserve National Grand Champion in 2016 and Supreme Champion of the North American International Livestock Exposition in 2018. She earned the title of National Grand Champion again in 2021 and was also Overall Premier Performance Cow and GJPI Grand Champion.

To be a master breeder, one needs to possess not just a master’s eye when choosing females, but skill in selecting service sires and raising calves to full potential. The Cores describe their breeding technique as “a blend of gut feelings, close critique of maternal and paternal lines, and use of proven sires.” There is no formula dictating numbers from a pedigree and no hard fast rules.

Often their best performers include a sprinkling of KCJF sires on both the top and bottom sides of the pedigree. Among the cows who can be found in the lineage of much of the herd today is the early influencer, K.J.F. Amandas Mercury Mandy, Excellent-93%. Her son, Mandys Patrick Rex, born in May 1987, was the first bull bred and sampled by the Cores. He has 137 daughters in his proof, including Rexs Patrick Kim, Excellent-94%, an All American honoree with nine complete lactations, and the dam of another show-stopper, Brady’s four-time champion, KJF Renaissance Lacy {6}, Excellent-96%.

“Lacy” was Intermediate Champion of the open show in Louisville in 1997. The next year, she was Reserve Grand Champion of the Central National Jersey Show and began her string of four consecutive Junior National Grand Champion titles. She completed seven lactations—four over 20,000 lbs. milk—and a top record of 24,990 lbs. milk, 1,058 lbs. fat and 839 lbs. protein at 8-11.

Another family of impact is the “Molly” cow family, which begins with KJF Responses Molly, Excellent-91%, whom Brooke showed to Junior All American honors as a junior two-year-old in 1997. Her daughter, KCJF Sambo Molly, Excellent-94%, was Intermediate Champion of The All American Jersey Show in 2006 and topped the National Jersey Jug Futurity two years later. She has two records over 22,000 lbs. milk. Her sons, KCJF Mollys Ren Motion and KCJF One in a Million, have sired numerous blue-ribbon winners for the Cores and other breeders. Her grandson, KCJF Hired Magician, is in the Showcase Selections lineup at Select Sires Inc. “Magician” is out of KCJF Mollys Regency Martini-ET, Excellent-95%, a paternal sister to “Treasure” and winner of the 2013 Bert Smith Leas Memorial Award for best bred and owned animal in the national futurity.

The dam of the previously mentioned “Ritzy” is a standout in her own right and has many descendants in the herd. KCJF Centurions Ritz, Excellent-93%, topped both the open and junior class at the All American as a senior two-year-old in 2009 and was named best bred and owned of the junior show. She completed a record of 29,600 lbs. milk, 1,351 lbs. fat and 1,035 lbs. protein at 6-5. Her son is the maternal grandsire of KCJF Colton Dancer {5}, Excellent-92%, winner of the inaugural GJPI class at the All American in 2019.

“Despite their success, Jeff and Alta Mae have remained humble and in service to others,” noted Brooke. They have never been ones to say “no” to a judging team needing a place to hone their skills, an area representative needing a homecooked meal or place to rest, or a new Jersey breeder needing sage, practical advice, she summed.

Jeff and Alta Mae are active with the Kentucky Jersey Cattle Club and the Kentucky National Show and Sale and long-time 4-H leaders. Alta Mae has served on the Kentucky Fair Council and retired from the Kentucky Department of Revenue with 30 years of service in 2008.

Judging assignments have brought Alta Mae to shows across the U.S. and to Argentina, Brazil, Costa Rica, New Zealand, Northern Ireland, and Scotland. Alta Mae has judged Jerseys at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair in Toronto, International Dairy Week in Australia, and the national show run by the Jersey Cattle Society in England. Jeff has judged shows domestically and in Canada and Mexico. He was associate for International Brown Swiss Show in 2018. The two are the first husband-wife duo to receive the Klussendorf Trophy, he in 2021 and she in 1999.

Equally important as the cows is the couple’s work as mentors and parents to Brooke, Brady and Brittany, all active in national Jersey youth programs and involved in the operation of the dairy today. Brittany won the 2009 National Jersey Youth Achievement Contest and she and Brooke both served on the National Jersey Queen court. Brady was recipient of the 2009 Fred Stout Experience award.

Perhaps summing their efforts most succinctly are Joe and Sarah Rocha, Tillamook, Ore., whose son, Brent, won a Junior All American title with a senior two-year-old sired by a Core-bred bull in 2017. “Jeff and Alta Mae have worked their entire careers in the Jersey business to breed and milk a herd of cows that focuses on type without sacrificing production and been wildly successful at it.”

“From their small herd of beautiful, hard-working cows, they have produced more All Americans than most herds could ever dare to hope for.”

“Their 365-days-a-year dedication to their vision for their herd has earned them the admiration and respect of Jersey breeders worldwide. Their focus and perseverance on breeding balanced production and type cows for generations warrants them most qualified for this prestigious award because they truly exemplify what it means to be a Master Breeder.”

Illinois dairy farm heritage spans multiple generations

Twice each day, dairy cows line up 12-at-a time to be milked at Rolling Lawns Farm in Greenville. As the animals enter the milking parlor, caretakers clean and sanitize each cow’s udder before attaching an automatic milking unit.

The entire milking process takes about 8 minutes per animal, with milk going from the cow to a customer’s glass in fewer than 6 hours.

“Cows look forward to the milking process,” says Michael Turley, owner and operator of the Bond County farm. “You have your early arrivers, who are first in line, and your cows who are last in line but they’re always in the same place every day.”

Michael Turley, a fourth-generation dairy farmer in Bond County, says high-quality care keeps cows like “Lovely” happy at Rolling Lawns Farm in Greenville.

The farm has been home to purebred Holsteins for more than 100 years, starting when Turley’s great-grandfather founded the dairy. Pedigrees and registration documentation help track each animal’s ancestry.

For example, Baltimore Barb represents the 29th generation in her family at the farm. Her predecessors came over from the Netherlands in 1882, when many U.S. farmers began using European genetics to grow the dairy sector.

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With 120 cows at Rolling Lawns Farm, there’s a lot of personal interaction between each animal and their handlers.

“We see each animal every day and can pretty much tell when they’re having a good day or an off day – just like people,” Turley says.

Each cow has her own personality, too. Lovely, a 7-year-old cow whose family has been on the farm for 75 years, is the biggest and most playful. Turley says she’s also the most spoiled.

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“She’s seen me pretty much every day of her adult life and she knows she’s going to get cared for,” he says. “She exemplifies the type of care that we try to give our cows every day. There’s a lot of trust and interaction between the animal and the owners.”

In 2017, Turley expanded his business to include a processing, bottling and retail facility 8 miles down the road from the farm. Customers at The Milk House can choose from a selection of white and flavored milks, as well as homemade ice cream. They can also watch fresh milk from the farm undergo pasteurization, which includes heating to remove bacteria, before it’s turned into dairy treats.

Cows get milked at 3:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. each day at Rolling Lawns Farm in Greenville. Handlers clean and sanitize each animal’s udder before attaching an automatic milker unit, which collects milk for about eight minutes.

Turley says his goal with adding transparency to how dairy products are made is to demystify any misconceptions shoppers might have. That includes answering questions about how his family and employees raise cows and the use of practices such as antibiotics.

“I love answering those types of questions because we can assure them about the safety of the product,” he says. “There are no antibiotics [in milk] because of the rigorous testing that not only our farm does, but every dairy farm in the United States undergoes. There isn’t a more heavily regulated product than milk.”


Technology key to dairy’s future

Toilet trained cows may very well be peeing to order by 2032, agritech entrepreneur Craig Piggott says.

Well, in defined places on the farm, that is, and as a way of keeping dairy farming environmentally friendly and sustainable.

Technology around toilet training is one of the “threads” exercising the minds of Piggott’s team at Halter after the start-up’s phenomenal success using “cowgorithms” to farm dairy cows.

“If you can train a cow to move left and right … move them around a farm, then why can’t you train them to urinate in a shed?” he asks.

Pokuru dairy farmer Pete Morgan is among farmers who’ve hitched Piggott’s collars to the herd and he’s now enjoying the benefits of the fence-free technology.

The electronic devices which the cows wear around their neck pick up every move and use sound and vibration to guide and contain them.

His four staff have a more strategic role now, working to maximise pasture and minimise inputs rather than spending time herding the animals to the dairy shed and shifting breaks in the rain and mud.

Piggott and Morgan were among panellists at the dairy industry’s Dairy 2032 event in Canterbury, looking forward to dairying a decade from now.

Morgan was in no doubt the dairy industry would be going strong in a decade’s time despite the world’s focus on alternative proteins and plant-based diets.

“As long as people are still eating food there will be a dairy industry without a doubt.

“It will be different but it will be there absolutely.”

“The consumers … will be closer to us – their understanding of what we do, our footprints in terms of animals and animal welfare, our staff and our environment and our emissions, hopefully we will be so solidly on track to slamming our methane emissions.

“We have the opportunity to be a real rock star … and we certainly expect to be.”

It is something farmers need to get on top of despite having few tools at present to help them reach emission reduction goals, he said.

“Not because of the regulatory environment. It is because we need to do it for us and our planet.”

He said farmers were feeling first-hand the effects of climate change and could not afford not to.

The intensive nature of dairying and its effect on nitrate levels is something he’s all too aware of when considering dairying for the future.

Advancements in genetics meant cows were becoming more efficient and stocking rates overall were reducing by one cow per 150 every year.

Morgan aims to have all feed produced on-farm instead of importing the stuff and is growing lucerne this year for the first time, minimising tillage which releases carbon sequestered in soil into the atmosphere.

Being set up to take advantage of every new tool out there was also key, he said.

Halter had already reduced his staff’s hours from 55 to 60 hours a week to less than 45 hours.

No one gets to the cowshed before 6am all season when previously they had to be there at 5.30am ready to put cups on and his staff find they have less of a manual job nowadays.

“They are designing breaks with different shapes that will optimise exactly the accurate allocation of feed.”

Cows move at their own pace in their pecking order and the farm has had a huge lift in productivity, Morgan said.

Piggott expected dairy farmers would need a system like his within five years to keep up with expectations around the industry.

“We have to be better, right? I find that quite exciting.”

He said demand was high for the product.

“We’re spending more of our time finding out how we can build more collars in China.”

“A lot of farmers are looking at the headwinds or challenges on the horizon and already looking for solutions and ways they can be better.”

Piggott said the labour shortage was driving innovation at the moment

He said within the next year as research projects develop, including R and D around toilet training cows, a picture of the farm of the future will become clearer.

“It feels like we’re right on the cusp of technology making a big move into this industry.”


‘It felt like wringing a dry sponge’: India’s dairy farmers face searing heat

Kailas Ramasamy gently guides his cows into a hangar-sized shed, tethers them to their posts, lays out their fodder and cleans the floor. Then, as he steps out, he flips a switch: ceiling fans begin to blow air on the cattle.

Ramasamy’s dairy farm is an hour outside southern India’s Bengaluru city. Usually known for its moderate weather, the region has witnessed a sharp rise in temperature compared with earlier decades. Elsewhere in India, temperatures have reached 50C (122F) this year.

That is bad news for India’s dairy industry, with heat stress leading to reduced appetite, lower weight gain and decreased fertility in cattle. Rising temperatures could reduce milk output by up to 25% in India’s hotter areas by 2085, according to recent research published in the Lancet.

Heat stress is a global problem, with thousands of cattle reported to have died last week in the US state of Kansas as temperatures of more than 37C were compounded by high levels of humidity.

But for India, any significant decline in milk production could be devastating for food security if it ends self-sufficiency in dairy in the world’s second most populous country.

Fans keep the cowshed cooler and protect against heat stress on Kailas Ramasamy’s farm.
Fans keep the cowshed cooler and protect against heat stress on Kailas Ramasamy’s farm. Photograph: Samyukta Lakshmi/The Guardian

The consequences would also be devastating for 80 million Indians employed across the dairy industry.

These are problems that Ranganatha Reddy knows well. Temperatures on his dairy farm in Anantapur, 120 miles (200km) from Bengaluru, hit 43C in May.

“My cows usually have an internal alarm clock and start mooing when it’s meal time because they’re always hungry,” he says. “But during the heatwave I had to almost force-feed them.”

His farm’s milk output dropped by 30% month-on-month. “It felt like I was wringing a dry sponge.”

India map

While climate change is a global phenomenon, the large number of small dairy holdings in India and a growing dependence on breeds that are vulnerable to heat stress could affect the country more than other big dairy producers such as the US or Brazil.

In the 1970s, India began crossbreeding imported, high-yield varieties of cattle with local species, helping turn the country from running a dairy deficit to producing 22% of the world’s milk.

India’s most recent livestock census found that the population of crossbred cattle had increased by 26% since 2012, while indigenous varieties decreased by 6%.

It makes financial sense to switch to crossbred cows as they produce “much more milk”, says Ramendra Das, a veterinary scientist who has studied the impact of warming temperatures on different breeds – but they are more vulnerable to heat stress than indigenous varieties.

Milk production of indigenous breeds is more robust than crossbred cows in heatwaves.
Milk production of indigenous breeds is more robust than crossbred cows in heatwaves. Photograph: Samyukta Lakshmi/The Guardian

Ramasamy, who buys and sells milk from local farmers through the company Vrindavan Dairy, is trying to promote the use of indigenous cows by paying more for milk from Indian cows (42p a litre) than from crossbreeds (32p).

Solutions to ward off heat stress include specially designed sheds with fans and sprinklers to keep cattle cool, but that comes at a high cost. “Only big, intensive dairy farms can afford such infrastructure,” says Girdhari Ramdas Patil, a former joint director at the National Dairy Research Institute. Almost two-thirds of India’s milk is produced by small-scale farmers.

Gyr cows slake their thirst at Vrindavan dairy farm near Bengaluru. The Gyr breed is sturdier and more resilient to climate change.
Gyr cows slake their thirst at Vrindavan dairy farm near Bengaluru. The Gyr breed is sturdier and more resilient to climate change. Photograph: Samyukta Lakshmi/The Guardian

Philip Thornton, a scientist at the Consortium of International Agricultural Research Centers and lead author of the Lancet study on heat stress milk yield losses, says that crossbreeding climate-resilient cattle varieties and higher-yielding cows might help in the long run.

For Ramasamy, the answer has been to seek better indigenous breeds. He has started breeding Gyr cows from northern India that give more milk than other breeds while also consuming less food and water than crossbred varieties.

Does he think the lower maintenance costs and risks of heat stress will persuade more farmers to turn to Indian breeds? “It’s going to be difficult, but I’m convinced that is the future,” he says.


New Zealand still calling for Irish dairy workers

A 900-cow dairy farm in the Alford Forest area of Canterbury, New Zealand, is seeking a farm hand to join its team from July to November or December 2022.

The farm owners are seeking a motivated, honest and reliable person with a willingness to learn and the individual will work alongside four other team members.

The herd is milked through a 54-bail rotary parlour with automatic cup removers and in-shed feeding. The farm is partly irrigated with one centre pivot.

The successful applicant will be expected to work in a team and independently.

Key roles will involve helping out with calf rearing when needed, milking, fencing, weed control and other farm tasks, depending on the time of the season and level of knowledge.

The role holder will require the relevant work visa and shared accommodation will be provided.

Farm manager needed in Kilkenny

A 160-cow dairy herd in Co Kilkenny is seeking a farm manager.

The farm owners say good pay and terms will be provided for the suitable candidate.

Accommodation can be made available if needed.


CME starts the week lower

On the Chicago Mercantile Exchange milk futures were mostly down and cash dairy prices were mixed Tuesday. Class III milk futures rebounded over course of the trading day on Tuesday. July milk dropped 20 cents to $23.36/cwt. August Milk fell 11 cents to $24.02/cwt. September milk inched 3 cents higher to $23.95/cwt. Class IV milk futures were higher on the day.

It was a mixed bag in the CME Dairy Product Auction on Tuesday.  Cheese Blocks were down $0.0450 at $2.10. One sale was made at $2.11. Cheese Barrels were up $0.0125 to $2.17.  No trades were recorded. Butter was down $0.01 to $2.93.  No trades were recorded. Nonfat dry milk was up $0.01 to $1.81. Two sales were recorded at that price. Dry whey was unchanged at $0.5075.  No sales were recorded.


Why extra cow space is priority in dairy housing redesign

The concept of living space for cows is a relatively new one. But for Gary Dalton, it has long been a fundamental part of his strategy for the 370-head Holstein herd at Bushton Farm, near Wootton Bassett.

“This is a Wiltshire County Council farm, and when we came here 23 years ago, we had a vet, called Peter May, out to do some fertility work, and he got chatting about the importance of giving cows space to ensure they express natural behaviour,” explains Mr Dalton.

This sparked a complete rethink of the design of the farm’s buildings and cow areas, with a refurbishment that started about 15 years ago. “At the time, we had old kennel-style cubicles, so with the help from the council we decided to put up some new buildings to provide more space for the cows.”

See also: Better way of measuring reveals ideal dairy cow living space

Today, Mr Dalton provides more space for his herd in two ways when housed – by increased living space and loafing areas.

The emphasis on space at the farm is so great that Mr Dalton has recently come out on top in a survey on living space carried out by his milk buyer.

While the average living space, according to the survey, is about 4.5sq m a cow, at Bushton Farm it is 11.5sq m a cow.

Farm facts

Bushton Farm, Royal Wootton Bassett, Wiltshire

  • 370 Holstein cows (some cross-bred)
  • Wiltshire County Council
  • Average yield – 11,500 litres
  • Grazed six months a year. Housed and fed a TMR in the winter
  • Calving index 390 days

Living space

Cows inside the shed

© Gary Dalton

Living space refers to the additional space provided to cows above the minimum requirement and includes design features such as wider passageways.

Red Tractor requires a minimum space allowance of 6.5sq m a cow for dairy cows weighing 600-699kg.

The cubicle housing at Bushton Farm features 4.5m passageways. “I had seen some buildings that had 6m passages between cubicles, but this was not something we could afford, so 4.5m was a good compromise.

“We also ensure there is always good lunging space, and cubicles are 2.7m long, rather than the more traditional 2.4m.”

In the fresh cow house, there is a 1.08m feed space allowance for each cow – compared with AHDB recommendations of at least 0.7m of feed space for Holstein-Friesian cows.

AHDB also says that many top-performing herds are offering feed space closer to 1m a cow.

Underpinning the increased living space is a conscious decision to always allow circular movement within the buildings – something that had never been prioritised on farm before.

“This means there are no dead ends at any point in the shed, and the cow has the opportunity to turn left or right at all times.”

He also received some training through the George Vet Group on encouraging circular movement and the benefits this has on cow welfare.

“It is particularly beneficial when there are more dominant cows in the herd that could restrict the movement of younger, smaller cows. If the boss cow stops [a younger cow] turning right, for example, then this gives her the option to go left.

“Space is not everything – nutrition and cow health are vital too. But if you have got all the basics right apart from allowing adequate space, then I don’t believe a cow will do as well.”

Loafing space

Cows in loafing area

© Gary Dalton

As the name suggests, loafing space refers to areas other than passageways and those used for feeding or lying, which cows can access at any time.

This is a feature at Bushton Farm and providing cows with this outdoor loafing space has been fundamental in boosting total cow space, explains Mr Dalton.

“All cows have an open area of concrete, which really increases our overall space provided to each cow,” he says.

There are two cubicle houses – one with 130 beds and the other with 160. These have loafing areas of 25x6m and 30x10m, respectively.

There is an open area between the buildings to provide a further 20x8m pad for loafing.

“I think it is really important from a cow welfare perspective – if she wants to have a bit of ‘me’ time, she can. Quite often in the evening, even in the winter, we will see 10-15 cows just stood out there gazing.

“It’s not because they’ve got nowhere to sleep or lie down, but simply because that’s what they naturally want to do.”

Open area between sheds

© Gary Dalton


While the measurable benefits of increased space have been highlighted in recent studies (see “Research recap”), Mr Dalton says that quantifying the impact on an individual farm basis is trickier.

However, he adds this is an area he and his milk buyer are interested in looking into in the future.

Something tangible he has noticed, however, is a reduction in environmental mastitis cases, which he believes is down to better housing for the cows. “We only have about five cases a year,” he says.

“We also didn’t have a single displaced abomasum for three years – again, something I think has been aided by having more space.”

While an external company does all his breeding work, Mr Dalton adds that having more space also means a greater chance of expression of bulling activity, which simplifies heat detection.

“Whenever anyone visits the farm, they always comment on how quiet and relaxed cows are, and I put this down to them not feeling boxed in and having the freedom to go where they like.”

His advice for others is simple. “Don’t inhibit a cow’s ability to express her potential by restricting her freedom to move.”

Gary Dalton’s tips for creating cow space

  • Always allow circular movement in buildings. It is worth taking cubicles out if needs be
  • Inside the shed, focus on expanding passageways, feed faces and cubicles to increase space allowance
  • Outside, consider giving cattle loafing areas. This can be as simple as a concrete pad. The key is giving them the ability freedom to roam as they please
  • Remember, space is not everything. Do not overlook the importance of cow health and nutrition when trying to target overall improved health and wellbeing

Cow in the loafing area outside

© Gary Dalton

Research recap

The benefits of providing cows with more “living space” was highlighted in a recent trial carried out by Jake Thomson at the University of Nottingham, in research funded by AHDB.

For the study, living space was defined as excess space above a baseline – taking into account the number of cows in a group, indoor and outdoor space, and cubicle numbers, width and length.

Cows were split into two groups, with one group receiving 3sq m of living space (9sq m total space) and the other had 6.5sq m of living space (14sq m total space).

A positive effect was seen where cows were given more space. Headline results were:

  • 100-600 litres yield increase
  • A one-hour increase in lying time a day
  • 10-minute increase in feed access a day

Read the full study results


Key players of Canada’s dairy industry redefine dairy transportation

Leading software developer Spiria delivers a state-of-the-art dairy transportation data collection system for the British Columbia Milk Marketing Board, Alberta Milk, and Dairy Farmers of Manitoba.

Spiria is proud to announce a collaboration with the British Columbia Milk Marketing Board, Alberta Milk, and Dairy Farmers of Manitoba that resulted in the design and development of a state-of-the-art enterprise-grade dairy transportation data collection system.

The British Columbia Milk Marketing Board, Alberta Milk, and Dairy Farmers of Manitoba are key players in the dairy supply chain in Western Canada. These organizations manage milk collection from producers and delivery to processors. Thanks to the new mobile and web applications developed by Spiria, it is easier and faster than ever for milk haulers to enter volume and sample data at the farm and drop-off data at the plants, assured that this business-critical data is securely delivered to the milk boards’ transportation teams in real time. On the transportation team side, the board staff have real-time visibility on milk routes and volumes, enabling them to make on-the-fly routing decisions and assuring quality compliance throughout the transportation process.

“Spiria is not only a partner but an actual member of our group. From day one, we felt that we had access to a trusted advisor who could not only deliver what we wanted, but also help us create things that we thought were out of our reach,” said Freda Molenkamp-Oudman, General Manager of Alberta Milk. “Having the opportunity to develop a platform for one of Canada’s finest institutions is something we are extremely proud of. Optimising a complex process like this one, through design and custom software development, is really what we love to tackle at Spiria,” mentioned Stéphane Rouleau, President and CEO of Spiria.  

Most importantly, this collaboration marks the beginning of a successful and potentially long-term partnership between leaders in the dairy and software development industry were Spiria is committed to continue advising the British Columbia Milk Marketing Board, Alberta Milk, Dairy Farmers of Manitoba on technology-related challenges while maintaining and improving the system.

About British Columbia Milk Marketing Board

The British Columbia Milk Marketing Board has the authority to promote, control and regulate the production, transportation, packing, storing, and marketing of milk, fluid milk and manufactured milk products within British Columbia.

About Alberta Milk

Alberta Milk is a non-profit organization that represents Alberta’s dairy producers. They are a non-profit, farmer-driven organization, guided by a board of directors and delegates, whom are all dairy farmers running family farms. Solely funded by Alberta’s dairy farmers, Alberta Milk supports those farmers to produce safe, nutritious food in an economically, socially and environmentally sustainable way.

About Dairy Farmers of Manitoba  

Dairy Farmers of Manitoba is a non-profit organization that represents and is financed by all dairy farmers in the province. All dairy farms in Manitoba are family-owned and operated. We are committed to producing milk according to the highest standards of quality.

About Spiria 

Founded in 2003, Spiria is a software development firm focused on helping companies successfully execute digital projects through strategy, design, and custom development. Their experts work with leading brands on building game changing digital products, optimizing processes, and generating growth through digital transformation. 

Nebraska-Led Project Examines Milk as Possible Cancer Fighter

In health care, perhaps no word sends a more chilling message than “cancer.” Brain tumors, for example, prove especially resistant to current treatments. Only 5% of patients with that condition survive more than three years and the median survival time is 10 to 14 months.

Janos Zempleni, professor of nutrition and Health sciences, and colleagues are pursuing a way to use milk to deliver cancer-fighters to the brain. The project recently received $630,00 in support from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. ©University Communication|University of Nebraska-Lincoln

But an innovative research project by University of Nebraska–Lincoln scientists offers the potential for a breakthrough. In a federally funded project, Janos Zempleni, a professor with the Department of Nutrition and Health Sciences, and Husker colleagues are pursuing a surprising way to use milk as the vehicle delivering cancer-fighting therapeutics to the brain.

The concept isn’t as fanciful as it might sound — it’s building on recent science. Preliminary findings in recent years show that it’s possible to manipulate the body’s genetic function to reduce the growth of tissues, including cancerous tumors. Scientists achieve that result by directing a type of gene regulator known as siRNAs to the targeted tissue. Genetic signaling carried by the siRNAs shuts down genetic function that enables new tissue growth.

But converting that preliminary finding into effective medical treatment has run into obstacles. So far, scientists have not been able to find an efficient way to deliver the genes consistently to the targeted area and in sufficient quantity.

Milk, it turns out, offers a good chance to solve the problem. Humans absorb siRNAs through food, recent research shows. And milk, Zempleni has found, stands out for its robust ability, once ingested, to help the genes accumulate naturally in the brain.

In their project, the Husker researchers will hone milk-focused techniques for effective gene delivery. Specifically, the project will use milk-transported siRNA genes to shut down the growth function of a gene known as IDH1, whose mutations result in brain tumors. The research also offers hope in addressing rare brain-centered genetic abnormalities affecting young children, said Zempleni, Willa Cather Professor of molecular nutrition and director of the Nebraska Center for the Prevention of Obesity Diseases.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has provided a $630,000 grant to support the project. Zempleni will lead the research, in collaboration with Forrest Kievit, assistant professor of biological systems engineering, and Jiantao Guo, associate professor of chemistry. USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture awarded the grant.

The long-term potential of this science is “enormous. It has not been realized yet at all,” said Zempleni, a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Sciences and winner of the Institute of Agricultural and Natural Resources’ 2015 Omtvedt Innovation Award.

Zempleni and his colleagues will use genetic science and chemistry to load exosomes, a natural nanoparticle in milk, with therapeutic material including siRNAs. Loading the material on cow’s milk exosomes would first require genetically modifying the cow, an enormously tricky task. So, the researchers instead will culture MAC-T cells (similar in genetic composition to cow’s milk cells) in the laboratory to produce exosomes, then direct them to brain tumors in mice.

The researchers aim to develop techniques that achieve two goals: Have the siRNAs effectively and consistently reach the tumors and have the siRNAs accumulate in sufficient quantity to reduce the tumor growth.

If this technology proves viable, large-scale production of exosomes will be needed to meet real-world patient demand. Laboratory cultures can supply only a small volume of exosomes. A cow, in contrast, can provide an ample number through its milk.

So, the Husker researchers aim, long term, to take a big step if their current research reaches its gene-delivery goals: They will seek to develop a genetically modified cow.

Such a cow, Zempleni wrote, would secrete “milk exosomes conducive to maximal delivery of RNA therapeutics to brain tumors in human cancer patients.”

The pharmaceutical industry is already using this general concept. It’s known as biopharming, meaning the use of animals in producing medical treatments. The drug Atryn, used to prevent blood clots in patients with a rare disease, is derived from the milk of genetically engineered goats.

“With our technology, you could actually use these milk exosomes, attach the appropriate feature and deliver a therapeutic to folks suffering from these rare diseases,” Zempleni said. “I think this could be a huge game changer if we get a funding agency to take the risk of developing these animals. That is a difficult task. With the MAC-T cells, it’s relatively easy, but taking this to livestock, a goat or a cow, it’s way, way complicated.”

Husker research has been pioneering in identifying the importance of milk as a potential gene delivery mechanism. In 2014, Scott Baier — a doctoral candidate in Zempleni’s lab — proposed an initial research project on the subject, culminating in a Journal of Nutrition paper that he, Zempleni and other Husker colleagues co-authored. The article since has been cited academically almost 300 times. Baier received his doctoral degree in nutrition science from Nebraska in 2015 and now is senior director of medical strategy at Vaniam Group, a company focusing on transformative cancer therapies in Dallas.

Zempleni’s path to the scientific exploration of genetics and food science began in his teenage years in his home country of Germany.

“I loved biology but at that age, I loved to go fishing — I was very much into all these native species of fish from Germany,” he said.

In succeeding years, his interests broadened, gradually shifting “from fish to biology to science.”

“I was torn between biochemistry or nutrition science,” he said. “I think in hindsight I made the right choice going with nutrition science. It’s a very comprehensive approach, and it allowed me to delve deeply into biochemistry and molecular biology. So, I think I’ve got the best of both worlds.”

Provided by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Global milk production slowing, weakening demand on horizon

Rabobank’s latest global Dairy Quarterly report said expectations of a weakening demand for dairy would lead to moderate price declines in late 2022.

On the other hand, global milk production is still declining for the fourth consecutive quarter.

Milk production in the ‘big seven’ dairy export regions (the European Union, United States, New Zealand, Australia, Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay) has been contracting year-on-year for the past three quarters.

Rabobank forecasts this downward trend will continue for the Q2 2022 period — creating a four-quarter-long, back-to-back run of constricting milk supply — something that hasn’t been seen since 2012-13.

“The current slowdown in global milk output is directly related to higher costs of production and weather events,” the report said.

“In the past, production has recovered and surpassed previous peaks, but now there are structural issues that could limit a significant rebound in production from some key exporters.”


At home there is widespread milk decline across all regions, but the record opening milk prices and revisions are providing cash flow and confidence to farmers.

Rabobank senior dairy analyst Michael Harvey said these milk prices were important as dairy farmers face cost headwinds.

“The cost of home-grown feed and supplementary feed will be more expensive, among other inflationary pressures,” Mr Harvey said.

“Against this backdrop, labour availability remains a handbrake on expansion. There is a likelihood that farm margins will be lower in the new season not higher, despite a circa 15 per cent lift in milk prices to record levels.”

Mr Harvey said there were bright spots on the horizon.

“Seasonal conditions remain supportive for spring pasture growth, and water market conditions are good for irrigation farmers,’’ he said.

“Non-milk incomes remain elevated, supported by a very firm beef market.”

New Zealand

Kiwi farmers are anticipating another profitable season, but higher input costs will chew into margins.

South America

Herd reduction continues as drought and high costs push farmers. Any rebound from the South America trio (Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay) will be slow as production costs remain high.

United States

Limited growth in the milk pool has pushed domestic milk prices high, but demand at these levels is showing signs of hesitation, adding volatility to the market.

Inflation is another issue to be watched.

European Union

Rabobank doesn’t expect the EU milk pool to grow until the second half of the 2022 year due to low year-on-year comparables.


China’s carryover stocks and strong milk production growth overhands weak demand due to COVID-19 lockdowns, ill-boding for 2022’s import outlook


China’s Raw Milk Production Expected to Reach 39.6 MMT in 2022

According to a Global Agricultural Information Network report from the US Department of Agriculture’s Foreign Agricultural Service, China’s raw milk production will reach 36 million metric tonnes (MMT) in 2022. According to the report, the 4.5 percent increase over 2021 is due to a larger dairy herd and improved efficiency. However, raw milk price declines, higher feed costs, and market uncertainty caused by China’s COVID-19 policies will put a damper on raw milk production in 2022.

Domestic fluid milk distribution is expected to reach 40.95 MMT in 2022, driven by consumer demand for dairy products in the retail and food processing sectors. Import growth is expected to slow to 1.3 MMT in 2022 due to higher global prices and competition from domestic production.

Production of Whole Milk Powder (WMP) is expected to rise slightly to 1.02 MMT as producers convert seasonal surplus raw milk to WMP. The bakery sector and manufacturers of dietary supplement beverages are expected to drive consumption to nearly 1.9 MMT.

Its use as an ingredient in infant formula, however, is declining as the country’s declining birth rate reduces demand for infant formula. The import estimate for WMP in 2022 has been reduced from 849 TMT in 2021 to 820 TMT in 2022.

The production of Skimmed Milk Powder (SMP) is estimated to be 24 TMT. Production is expected to remain low as China does not produce enough cream or butter to support a significant increase in SMP.

Total domestic consumption is expected to be 423 TMT, a 5% decrease year on year due to a greater supply of WMP in the market, according to Post officials. Due to lower market demand, imports are also reduced to 400 TMT.

As local producers expand production at the same rate as in 2021, China’s cheese production is expected to reach 20 TMT in 2022. Due to the impact of China’s COVID-19 restrictions, postal officials have reduced consumption estimates to 190 TMT from 194 TMT in 2021.

Food service is a major channel for cheese distribution and consumption, and 2022 lockdowns and continued restrictions on food service, including in affluent cities like Shanghai and Shenzhen, hurt consumption.

According to the report, any prolonged lockdowns will result in further declines in cheese consumption and HRI spending in 2022. China’s butter production is estimated to be 12 TMT, while imports are estimated to be 150 TMT, an increase of 8% from 2021.

Domestic butter production is more expensive than imported butter due to higher raw milk costs, but growth is expected in 2022, driven by an immediate need for butterfat as an ingredient in value-added products. The bakery and food service sectors, which rely on imported butter products, are estimated to consume 160 TMT of butter. China Customs data is used to calculate butter imports.

Source: eDairyNews

New Zealand Farmers Continue to Deliver, Despite the Odds

Today’s primary sector report shows New Zealand dairy farmers have overcome the odds – despite rising input costs, labour shortages, fewer cows and less production they have still delivered for our national economy.

DairyNZ chief executive Dr Tim Mackle said MPI’s Situation and Outlook for Primary Industries report projecting the dairy sector will be worth $21.6b this year – trending toward $24b by 2026 – is a significant milestone for farmers.

“Farmers really are being challenged right now. Input costs and staff shortages are testing our farmers as we head into the busiest part of the year, when the impacts of stress will be felt the most. Farmers are also delivering on environmental work and implementing policy changes on farms too,” said Dr Mackle.

“So to hear that their work is truly delivering for New Zealand – and there’s a bright future for our food products – will buoy farmers as they refine their farm systems to continue delivering product that’s in demand.”

The report said farm management and advancing technology will help deliver increased on-farm productivity.

“Cow numbers are falling but the work being done by farmers to improve dairy cow genetics and adopt new technologies is expected to pay dividends. It’s a signal that our on-farm productivity can continue to thrive, thanks to advances in farm management practices.

“Importantly, this bodes well for work to be done for climate change solutions. We are actively exploring technology solutions and today’s report sends a positive message just how well our sector does that.”

More importantly, Dr Mackle said the report is a reminder of the value of New Zealand’s primary industries to our national economy.

“The work our farmers do daily to deliver a world-class product that is low carbon footprint continues to be sought-after,” says Dr Mackle.

“We know the primary sector is important to New Zealand communities and as a nation for our quality of living. Our food and fibre products are in demand – and today’s report suggests this will only increase.”


Cognitive Dissonance in America’s Dairy Land

At “dinner” time—in the middle of the afternoon—the dairy farmer, his wife, a brother-in-law, and a couple of friends gathered around the big kitchen table. There was a ham, and a turkey, and gigantic bowls of potatoes and vegetables, and two pies on the kitchen counter. 

Two of the men were missing one finger each. “Caught it in a grain screw,” one explained. I was there to report a magazine story. The guests had come to work on the farm for a day, and the big meal was one of the perks. 

Milked: How an American Crisis Brought Together Midwestern Dairy Farmers and Mexican Workers
By Ruth Conniff
New Press, 313 pp.

The farmer needed the help. This was 1997. A wave of farm consolidation had been building across the country, and, as the farmer said to me, “We had to get big or get out.” That became a mantra across farm country, and especially on dairy farms. 

Free market economics demanded it. As old New Deal supply-demand price management gave way, and as every link in the supply chain all the way to the retail shelf consolidated—think Walmart and Kroger behemoths—the price of milk and dairy products dove lower, cutting margins for farmers. They had to scale up to force per-unit prices down. Herds of 100 cows became herds of 300, then 1,000, then 2,000. So even as farms disappeared—in 1987, there were 146,685 farms with dairy cows in the United States; by 2017, there were 54,599—the industry produced more milk than ever. 

You could celebrate this as “efficiency,” without considering the cost in the destruction of communities and the price paid by farmers, who now die by suicide at one of the highest rates of any occupation. Or you could read Milked, Ruth Conniff’s illuminating, distressing, yet oddly optimistic exploration of America’s Dairy Land. 

Back in 1997, the farmer outside La Crosse, Wisconsin, had not hired any Mexican labor. He wasn’t sure what he was going to do—but he knew he had to do something. He could start his 14-hour day at 4:30 a.m., work as farmer, vet, mechanic, biologist. His wife could be accountant and business manager. But they could not run the place alone.

Their son had just started high school. The farmer hoped the boy would take over one day. The boy, having worked on the farm, and seen his father’s brutal schedule, didn’t want to take over, though he hadn’t told his father yet. He wanted to get as far away from a dairy farm as he could possibly go.

Conniff, a Wisconsin native and the editor in chief of the Wisconsin Examiner, writes a vivid tale. She writes about quinceañeras—the celebration of a Hispanic girl’s 15th birthday—in a land of Trump-voting farmers; about illegal immigration and economic necessity; about the gumption of both farmers and laborers. These are sources of optimism in what is sometimes a perverse story. Farmers respect hard work, family, devotion. With few exceptions, the Mexicans they hire share these qualities. 

Mexican fathers milk cows while trying to parent misbehaving sons living 2,000 miles away with their mothers. Immigrant hands send wages home to build houses they hope to move into one day when they can return to their country. They work six- and seven-day weeks for years on end, doing jobs no American will do for the low wages the farmers pay. They navigate life in small-town America with limited English, occasional harassment, and fear of deportation.

Conniff’s farmers marvel at all this. Some come not only to respect the immigrant laborers, but also to love them. The farmer John Rosenow employs two Mexicans named Fermin and Roberto. Conniff writes, 

Maybe the two men will want to take part ownership in the farm. John hopes so. He doesn’t have any children of his own, and he wants this to be his legacy: helping the next generation of immigrants take their place in the history of the valley.

But Conniff also makes the perversity clear, both explicitly and by implication. Farm owners twist in the convoluted political gymnastics that enable them to vote for Trump in 2020 while also supporting their workers’ ability to live in the United States despite being here illegally. 

Bill Traun, for example, employs Lupe and Blanca, who give names to all of Bill’s cows. He loves that—and them. According to Conniff,

Bill didn’t like it when Donald Trump started saying bad things about immigrants. “It scared them, and it scared me,” he says. But over time, he felt that Trump’s anti-

immigrant rhetoric kind of faded out. And the border wall didn’t stop Mexican workers from coming to the farms in the area. During the pandemic, he notes, Trump sent a lot of aid to farmers. 

Indeed, the farmers seem to admire the guts it takes to trek from rural Mexico to rural Wisconsin; that moxie contributes to their admiration of their Mexican employees. 

This past March, a teenage girl fell from the new, higher border wall near San Diego and fractured her skull, neck, and back. On April 11, a woman died after becoming entangled in climbing gear while trying to scale the border wall near Douglas, Arizona. And on May 6, a man died while trying to scale the wall near San Diego. Two women, one in her 30s and one in her 50s, were seriously injured. 

The San Diego Union-Tribune reported on April 29: 

In 2016 … UC San Diego Health admitted border-wall injury patients at a rate of about 49 people per 100,000 local Border Patrol apprehensions. By 2021, that rate grew to about 449 people per 100,000 apprehensions.

The border wall does not stop people from coming to the United States. It never has. It only makes it more dangerous for immigrants to provide labor for Wisconsin farmers. 

Some of Conniff’s farmworkers are robbed by gangs or abused by smugglers on their way to America. Some are raped. Some die in the desert. The suffering their laborers endure seems not to trouble some of the farmers. But they are in a bad spot, too. Millions of dollars might flow through their mega farms, but their profits are often low, after accounting for loan payments, seed, feed, equipment, and other expenses. And they can’t find American labor to muck out pens and assist in a calf delivery at three in the morning. 

The problems Conniff explores require systemic reform. She suggests changing the current H-2A visa program, which covers agricultural workers. Now, these workers have to return to their home countries within a year. This doesn’t work for dairy farms, which operate around the clock, every day of the year. No farmer can afford to have workers leave for extended periods. Democrats offered legislation to put H-2A workers on a path to citizenship, but the bill failed

Congress, the Federal Trade Commission, and the Department of Justice could crack down on the ever-increasing consolidation that has put farmers in this position in the first place. There are signs that this is beginning to happen

But there’s much more involved than immigration law and antitrust policy. Conniff touches on the effect of International Monetary Fund austerity demands on Mexican agriculture, NAFTA, and other big-picture forces that could generally be grouped under the label of economic neoliberalism. These forces have conspired to create the situation in which farmers and workers now find themselves. Those of us who are subject to America’s increasingly bizarre food system are, of course, affected as well.

I would have enjoyed seeing more of this kind of context in Milked. Even so, Conniff’s great gift is in placing individual people and their lives at the center of what could otherwise come across as a big, complicated snoozer of a story.

The residents of rural America used to vote for Democrats. And one farmer told me recently, “I don’t see how anybody who farms couldn’t vote Democratic.” The voices Conniff brings to life evoke the days of New Deal programs like the Agricultural Adjustment Act, rural electrification, and antitrust enforcement, all of which were boons to rural America. 

There are still rural votes to be had, and in a cockamamie electoral system that overweights land area, no political party can afford to ignore them. It’s vital to listen to what people in those areas are saying, thinking, and doing, and to learn how they’re coping and fighting small-scale battles of their own—not only for Democratic electoral success, but also for the health of the nation.

 “Bill didn’t like it when Donald Trump started saying bad things about immigrants. ‘It scared them, and it scared me,’ he says. But over time, he felt that Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric kind of faded out … During the pandemic, he notes, Trump sent a lot of aid to farmers.”

John Rosenow, one of Conniff’s main subjects, views the land with near-religious reverence. He’s also something of a liberal, which makes him a minority among his fellow farmers. But other, more conservative farmers join him on trips to Mexican villages. These trips are organized by a local woman, Shaun Duvall, a Spanish speaker who acts as translator and cultural interpreter between the farmers and the laborers. Once in Mexico, the American farmers meet the families of the people who work for them. They see the houses that are paid for by the wages workers send home. In the process, any Fox News–stoked fear dissolves and the farmers see parallel images of themselves. They reflect on how immigrants, many of them undocumented, have transformed small American towns—in some cases saving them from oblivion—by opening grocery stores, restaurants, and barbershops. 

Most tellingly, the Americans find themselves admiring the farms and communities their current and former employees enjoy in Mexico: some fruit trees, a few animals, lots of family, and many celebrations. The Mexicans, in turn, seem to feel a little sorry for the Americans: They may be richer, but they’re not happier.


Brexit bill spells uncertainty for Northern Irish dairy farmers

Philip Haffey rustles a feed bag and the cows come trotting towards him. The fourth generation dairy farmer in the county of Armagh, Northern Ireland produces 1.4 million liters of milk per year. The grain his cattle eat, when not eating grass or silage, is imported from Great Britain.

But those grain imports could become a nightmare for him under Boris Johnson’s new bill to unilaterally rewrite Brexit trade rules for the region. Farmers say the Prime Minister’s initiative threatens the dairy sector, which is worth £1.5 billion a year in Northern Ireland and part of the largest integrated industry on the island.

The bill provides for a dual regulatory regime, whereby goods entering the region can be produced to UK or EU standards. But if the rules diverge and the grain Haffey feeds his cattle is grown with pesticides not allowed in the EU, he could no longer send his milk to the Republic of Ireland for processing.

That would do more than just harass a farmer who was happy to vote for Brexit. The region doesn’t have enough factories to process all the milk it produces, meaning the 800 million liters a year produced by Northern Irish farmers processed south of the border – a third of the region’s production – had nowhere to go except Great Britain.

Milk from the north and south is also blended together so that butter, cheese, Baileys Irish Cream liqueur, baby food and other products are made with supplies from both jurisdictions.

Haffey objects to customs controls in the Irish Sea for British goods entering the region under the post-Brexit trade arrangements known as the Northern Ireland Protocol. “We are part of the UK so business should flow just as freely to Northern Ireland as it does to Wales,” he said. “I think pressure needs to be put on the EU.”

But even he isn’t calling for the protocol — which London says poses “danger” to social and political conditions in the region — should be scrapped altogether for one simple reason. As Alan Cleland, a farmer in County Down put it, “A lot of bits and pieces of protocol are problematic. But from our milk standpoint, it seems to be working.”

Alan Cleland, a dairy farmer from County Down: ‘From the point of view of our milk, [the Protocol] seems to work’ © Paul McErlane/FT

London’s bill to give ministers the power to tear up parts of the protocol is already undermining the industry’s image, said Gerry O’Reilly, a dairy farmer south of the border in County Cavan and a shareholder of Lakeland Dairies, a large processor.

Northern Irish milk, also from Haffey, keeps Lakeland stocked, especially at the end of the year when herds like his aren’t producing, he said. “In fact, damage has already been done,” O’Reilly said. “If you’re an international buyer, you’d say, ‘I want a steady supply for five to ten years, but you’ve got all this political nonsense’. It immediately weakens us.”

In order to preserve the Good Friday Agreement of 1998, which ended three decades of conflict, the protocol left the region within the EU’s internal market for goods and subject to EU rules and supervision, rather than customs controls on on a land border that is now largely invisible.

But union officials say the customs controls imposed in the Irish Sea are instead undermining the region’s status as part of the UK. The Democratic Unionist party has paralyzed local political institutions to push through its demands for the abolition of the border with the Irish Sea.

Trading on its image of rolling pastures, dairy has become one of the most emblematic industries on all the islands in the quarter of a century since the Good Friday Agreement.

“Dairy is Ireland’s flagship product,” said Conor Mulvihill, director of Dairy Industry Ireland, a trade association. The industry is worth €13 billion to the Republic of Ireland and employs 85,000 people on both sides of the border. “It’s mental what is presented.”

Whiskey is another industry with north-south supply chains that has boomed since the Good Friday Agreement, from just twenty-four years ago to 42 distilleries. Malt and grains cross the border every day, as does newly distilled spirits to mature.

“It’s very important that we have one set of rules,” said William Lavelle, director of the Irish Whiskey Association. “If the protocol is in any way undermined or disapplied . † † it would just bring a whole new set of headaches.”

But other industries complain that the protocol creates costly bureaucracy, making it difficult for some products, such as sausages, to be sold in Northern Ireland.

This week’s bill aims to introduce a “green lane” without customs controls for goods from Britain residing in Northern Ireland and end scrutiny of the rules by the European Court of Justice.

Mike Johnston, head of the Dairy Council for Northern Ireland, welcomed London’s recognition that there is no “one size fits all” approach.

But he said the law could mean in the worst case scenario that “we should just stop buying grain” from Britain. The industry buys 400,000 tons a year, so “British grain farmers could lose . † † a lot depends on this.”

British officials were divided on the extent of the potential crisis. One said there were “misconceptions” and that industries selling to the bloc would go ahead with EU regulations.

But another said: “There is clearly no solution. They are full. The dual regulatory regime can never work for agri.”

Dairy farmers said the risks were very real. the UK in 2021 authorized the use of an insecticide banned by the EUthough London says it was ultimately not used, and UK gene editing standards deviate from EU rules.

Charlie Weir, another farmer in County Armagh, regretted voting to leave the EU “because it was one lie after another” from London. “Why, if the protocol is so bad, is Northern Ireland the only region in the UK to grow in the first quarter?” he said.

“We could be left with higher costs and lower prices,” said another Armagh farmer who voted to stay in the EU and declined to be named because of the deep, lingering divisions in the region.

“The protocol is incredibly good for Northern Ireland – it’s just the best of both worlds,” he said.


Gloriavale seeks High Court injunction forcing Westland Milk to continue collecting from its dairy farms

Gloriavale has sought a High Court injunction forcing Westland Milk to continue collecting milk from the community’s dairy farms.

Westland Milk announced it would stop collecting milk from the reclusive West Coast Christian sect’s farms after the Employment Court ruled members of the community who worked up to 70 hours a week were not volunteers.

The collection was set to end on Monday to coincide with the end of the milking season.

In a statement, a spokesperson for Westland Milk confirmed that Gloriavale’s Canaan Farming Dairy Ltd had filed an application for an interim injunction against Westland.

“Westland has been advised that the injunction application will request that Westland be compelled to perform the terms of its milk collection contracts with Canaan, specifically to require Westland to continue to collect milk from Canaan’s three farms.

“Both parties have agreed that Westland will continue to collect Canaan’s milk until the court has determined Canaan’s application for an interim injunction.”

Gloriavale has been approached for comment.

Westland Milk is not the only company to act following the Employment Court ruling.

Meat company ANZCO Foods has given notice to Gloriavale that it will end business with its offal processing company Value Proteins and last month Silver Fern Farms said it would no longer supply offal to Value Proteins.

Alliance Group is still reviewing its relationship with the firm.


The California Milk Advisory Board is pleased to announce The Cal-Mex Invitational Foodservice Competition, which will showcase California dairy.

The California Milk Advisory Board (CMAB) today announced a new culinary competition for foodservice that celebrates the fusion of California and Mexican cuisines, the Cal-Mex Invitational. The Cal-Mex Invitational captures the culinary trends of global flavors and ethnic fare, trends California – as the leading producer of Hispanic-style cheese and dairy products in the United States – is well positioned to tap into.

For the Invitational, a select group of professional chefs from across the U.S. will be invited to submit recipes covering three meal occasions that showcase the innovative use of Hispanic-style Real California cheese and dairy products in each. A panel of expert judges will choose the best two recipes in each category – appetizer, entrée, and dessert. The winning chefs will then compete in a head-to-head cook-off at the Culinary Institute of America at Copia in Napa, Calif. on August 3, 2022, for over $22,000 in cash prizes and recognition as a Cal-Mex leader.

“Culinary competitions like the Cal-Mex Invitational create an opportunity to work with and recognize chefs who are using California cheese and dairy product in an innovative and exciting way,” said Mike Gallagher, Business and Market Development Consultant for the CMAB. “We look forward to exploring the Cal-Mex category through their dishes.”

The live, cook-off event will be presented online where viewers can watch as chefs prepare dishes in front of the judges and are evaluated by criteria, such as the use of Hispanic-style California dairy products, taste, texture and presentation, and creativity.

Based on scoring, each category winner will receive a trophy and $5,000 prize. Category runners-up each receive a certificate and $1,500. Non-finalists receive a certificate and $500 each.

For more details and the latest updates about the inaugural Cal-Mex Invitational, the competitors and competing dishes visit

California leads the nation in milk production and is responsible for producing more butter, ice cream and nonfat dry milk than any other state. The state is the second-largest producer of cheese and yogurt. California milk and dairy foods can be identified by the Real California Milk seal, which certifies they are made exclusively with sustainably sourced milk from the state’s dairy farm families.

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