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1608 PD: Will Idaho become #3 in milk production this year?

Published on 06 November 2008

Per-cow production and culling activity will most likely determine if Idaho surpasses the nation’s current No. 3 milk-producing state, New York, by the end of the year.

At the end of the third quarter, the total production difference between the two states this year was 118 million pounds. Historically the percentage of annual milk produced in the fourth quarter in New York is greater than that produced in Idaho, so the Gem State has the year’s cumulative difference plus a bit more to make up. Yet while Idaho probably won’t control its own destiny, passing New York in 2008 isn’t an impossible feat.

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Idaho’s characteristic growth over the last decade has been consistent growth in both cow numbers and milk production per cow. Therefore, predicting Idaho’s fourth quarter activity is less complex than guessing New York’s. Why? The difference between the five-year and three-year average growth in fourth quarter per-cow milk production between the two states is wide. Idaho’s five- and three-year fourth quarter growth in per-cow production is very similar, 1.2 percent and 1.5 percent, respectively. However, New York’s fourth quarter milk production growth averages are more erratic. The state’s five-year fourth quarter growth in production per cow is 1.8 percent while the three-year average growth rate is 3.4 percent. The question is: How much will New York’s per-cow production grow in the fourth quarter? Here are a few scenarios to consider.

Best-case scenario for Idaho
New York’s dairy herd stays the same, or even better shrinks in the fourth quarter, while milk production per cow grows only slightly (less than 1 percent) over last year’s fourth quarter per-cow production average of 1,608 per cow. In this scenario, if Idaho cow numbers stay the same or increase over the state’s September herd size of 554,000 cows, Idaho will most likely pass New York.

Worst-case scenario for Idaho
If New York’s dairy herd increases in the fourth quarter by 1,000 cows or more and maintains per-cow production levels at last year’s fourth quarter per-cow production level, or even increases by as little as 1 percent, New York will most likely remain No. 3 in 2008.

Most likely scenario
Given current feed and milk prices, nothing is predictable, but it is possible for Idaho producers to add at least another 2,000 cows to the state’s milk herd. That fourth-quarter addition would be less than previous cow population increases of 2 percent and 1.1 percent during the second and third quarters of 2008, respectively. The benchmark to watch will be whether New York per-cow production averages above 1,614 pounds during the fourth quarter while, at the same time, watching to see if the state’s dairy herd grows or shrinks.

The wild card in all of these scenarios is cow populations. If cow populations decrease at all in New York or increase by more than 2,000 cows in Idaho, these scenarios change significantly. PD

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Watch for more updates in the next two issues of Progressive Dairyman.

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