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What’s the right word to explain it?

PD Editor Walt Cooley Published on 18 May 2012

In this issue, we publish a popular article that first appeared in our electronic newsletter. The article describes a group of producers who are early-adopters of robotic milking technology who meet regularly – both in person and online –to share ideas about how to improve their automated operations.

The article was a hit when it published online two months ago, and thus we’ve decided to run it in print. If you’re not yet a subscriber to our semi-weekly newsletter that contains more of these in-depth, topic-based articles, click here to begin getting what nearly 10,000 other subscribers already receive.

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The aforementioned article is just one of several in this issue that discusses new technologies related to harvesting high-quality milk. Others include using DNA-based cultures to improve mastitis treatment ( click here to read more about this topic in the article by Jere High in the May 21, 2012 issue ) and my interview with a chemist who’s discovered what could possibly be the future of mastitis treatment drugs ( click here to read what Wildred van der Donk has to say in our May 21, 2012 issue 3 Open Minutes ).

I may receive a few negative comments for having a magazine promote milk production efficiency and quality when there is certainly a plethora of milk available this year. We debated internally about the best word to use on the cover of this issue to explain it: massive, colossal, enormous.

We settled on simply huge. But the U.S. isn’t the only one seeing production explode. (Click here to read our May 21, 2012 issue Export watch by USDEC.)

According to data from the Dairy Companies Association of New Zealand, the Kiwis peaked out their production at 2.89 million tons of milk production in Oct. 2011, 9.5 percent more than the previous year’s peak. Imagine for a minute if when the USDA tallies this month’s peak milk production numbers, the U.S. had a 9.5 percent year-over-year increase in total milk production.

Say the average U.S. cow produces 63 pounds per day in May (that’s assuming a likely 4 percent increase in peak U.S. milk production per cow over last year), then we’d need to be milking 480,000-plus more cows than we are right now to achieve the same feat. Seems like a big number, right? No one would milk that many more cows at these prices, right?

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Now remember that relative to the annual production of the U.S. or Europe, New Zealand’s share of the world’s fluid milk production isn’t much (just 20 percent that of the U.S.), so its 9.5 percent increase hasn’t had the same effect on global markets that a 9.5 percent increase in the U.S. would have.

However, it’s evidence of just how delicately balanced global supply and demand for milk are. Small quantities, and certainly big ones, like a 9.5 percent increase in New Zealand milk or a likely 4 percent increase in U.S. peak milk, tip the world price scale – so far downward this year for dairy products.

So I can sympathize with some who say enough is enough. And it’s preposterous to think we would ever do what New Zealand’s doing, right? But then again, 480,000 cows spread over every dairy in the U.S. means about nine more cows per herd. Does milking just nine more cows tempt you? PD

  • Walt Cooley

  • Editor-in-chief
  • Progressive Dairyman
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