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Weekly Digest: 39% of dairy cows in ‘drought’ areas

Progressive Dairy Editor Dave Natzke Published on 13 October 2021

Digest Highlights

Thirty-nine percent of dairy cows in ‘drought' areas

Nearly four in 10 U.S. dairy cows were located in “drought areas” at the start of October, according to the USDA’s World Agricultural Outlook Board. The latest U.S. Drought Monitor map (Figure 1) indicates about 39% of U.S. dairy cows were in drought areas as of Oct. 5, down about 3% from a month earlier and well below the peak of 63% last June.

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The weekly U.S. Drought Monitor maps overlay areas experiencing drought with major production areas for hay, alfalfa hay, corn, soybeans and other crops, as well as primary dairy and beef cattle areas.

milk cow drought areas

Of additional concern to dairy and beef producers, about 39% of U.S. hay-producing acreage was considered under drought conditions at the start of October, up 3% from early September. The area of drought-impacted alfalfa acreage improved 1% over the past month but still stands at 62%. Improving conditions in southwestern Minnesota, Virgina and West Virginia were offset by worsening drought in Oklahoma, northern Texas and portions of Colorado.

O’Brien to succeed Gallagher as head of DMI

Barbara O’Brien was unanimously approved by the Dairy Management Inc. (DMI) board of directors to succeed Tom Gallagher as CEO, effective immediately. Gallagher will remain as an adviser to O’Brien as needed through July 31, 2022.

O’Brien plans to tap the expertise of DMI staff, along with input from farmers and industry leaders, to seek ideas and contributions that magnify the checkoff’s impact and create efficiencies on behalf of farmer and importer owners.

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Multichannel checkoff campaign launched to reach Gen Z

DMI unveiled a youth-centric dairy promotion campaign to engage Gen Z consumers (ages 10 to 24). Launched Oct. 13, the “Reset Yourself with Dairy” campaign uses a variety of media channels and marketing strategies, including gaming, social media influencers and digital content.

The strategy centers on four aspects of dairy’s wellness benefits that checkoff-led consumer research found resonates and drives purchase decisions with members of Gen Z: immunity, calm, energy and digestive health.

Dairy content will appear on Spotify, where Gen Z heads for music and podcasts, as well as across YouTube and Google video searches and via television streaming providers including Hulu, Roku and Vevo.

There will be continued outreach to the gaming community, working with Twitch, and the content will be available on TikTok, Instagram and Snapchat. The effort also includes a partnership with Kroger Digital and Instacart for content to appear in their retail apps and mobile sites.

In addition to these virtual strategies, the campaign will have activations on about 400 college campuses, including on TV screens in recreation centers and cafeterias.

Stonyfield to take in some Northeast farms facing contract terminations

Stonyfield Organic, a maker of organic yogurt based in New Hampshire, announced plans to invite some of the 89 Northeast organic dairy farmers whose milk supply contracts with Horizon are being terminated to join their direct supply program. 

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In August, Horizon Organic, a subsidiary of Danone, notified dairy producers in four states – New York, Vermont, Maine and New Hampshire – that their milk supply contracts would not be renewed beyond August 2022. Read: Northeast officials seeking options for organic producers.

“The potential loss of 89 organic family farms would be a devastating loss for our region and our environment,” said Gary Hirshberg, Stonyfield co-founder. “When we heard about the contract terminations, we knew we had to step up and help as many farms as we possibly could, beginning with our initial commitment to take a group of these farms into our program."

According to a Stonyfield press release, the company has launched an internal task force to work with state departments of agriculture, nonprofit organizations, retailers and institutional food customers to find ways to keep more of the farms in business.

Agropur adding Wisconsin cheese production capacity

Agropur Dairy Cooperative will build a new $168 million cheese production facility in northeastern Wisconsin. The 210,000-square-foot facility, under construction on 24.5 acres in the village of Little Chute, will more than double Agropur’s annual milk processing capacity in the area – from 300 million to 750 million pounds. About 85% of that milk will come from within 40 miles of the plant.

Agropur is the largest dairy cooperative in North America and one of the top 20 dairy producers in the world. In Wisconsin, it already operates facilities in La Crosse, Appleton, Little Chute, Weyauwega and Luxemburg. The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) will support the expansion with up to $4.5 million in business tax credits.

CDI building UHT-ELS fluid plant

California Dairies Inc. (CDI) held a groundbreaking ceremony, Sept. 29, on a new Valley Natural Beverages fluid milk processing facility. The 220,000-square-foot facility, located on a 30-acre site in northern Kern County, is expected to be fully operational in 2023. The facility will produce ultra-high-temperature (UHT) and extended shelf-life (ESL) milk products.

The project is being built in a region of California with significant milk production but no local processing facilities, according to CDI. The investment will significantly reduce the transportation distances of milk produced in Kern County, and renewable energy sources and waste conservation are key priorities in the facility and operational design.

CDI is the largest dairy farmer-owned cooperative in California and the second largest in the U.S. Its 300 dairy farmer owners produce about 17 billion pounds of milk annually, approximately 40% of California’s total. That milk is processed into butter, fluid milk products and milk powders.

USDA grant to fund algae dairy feed research

The USDA announced a third round of National Institute of Food and Agriculture’s (NIFA) Sustainable Agricultural Systems program grants. The $146 million outlay will fund 15 projects aimed at ag sustainability, climate change, food production and nutrition.

One project is specifically targeting dairy. A $10 million project, conducted in partnership with Colby College, Waterville, Maine, will research algae feed additives for dairy cows, assessing the impact at the animal-, farm- and community-level. The project will include developing integrated public outreach programs to enhance milk production, mitigate greenhouse gas emissions and recover nutrients.

The number of the week: Dairy consumption

For the third consecutive year, 2020 U.S. per-capita dairy consumption increased, up 3 pounds from 2019 to 655 pounds per person. Read: Dairy’s 2020 gains were steady in a year that was anything but from the National Milk Producers Federation and watch for Progressive Dairy’s annual statistical summary online and in the Nov. 7, 2021, issue of the magazine.

Coming up: PVMAP details; September uniform prices and PPDs

Watch for these updates on Progressive Dairy’s website later this week:

  • The USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) has posted a 12-minute webinar with details for dairy producers who may be eligible for payments under the Pandemic Market Volatility Assistance Program (PMVAP). If contacted this month, a critical first step for eligible dairy farmers is to certify that they meet USDA adjusted gross income (AGI) requirements with their milk handler or cooperative.

  • Federal Milk Marketing Order (FMMO) administrators reported September 2021 uniform milk prices, producer price differentials and milk pooling data during the week of Oct. 11. After a tumultus, pandemic-induced period that saw extreme price volatility and dramatically negative PPDs, September’s numbers are almost ho-hum.  end mark
Dave Natzke
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