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Views and opinions: USDA gives farmers more time for livestock forages
 

The USDA announced that farmers who planted cover crops on prevent-plant acres will be able to hay, graze, and chop their fields as early as Sept. 1 this year, as opposed to the usual Nov. 1 date, to provide for enough forage for dairy and livestock operations later this year. USDA will also allow silage to receive the same treatment this year as haying and grazing.

The National Milk Producers Federation’s Jim Mulhern said, “This year’s problematic weather and disasters have created a unique set of challenges for farmers for whom feed availability is a critical issue. We thank Secretary (Sonny) Perdue for taking important steps to ease the feed crisis that farmers are facing in multiple regions.”

Meanwhile, the Progressive Agriculture Organization delivered thousands of petitions to Perdue the second week of June. The petitions, signed by consumers, urge the Secretary to call national milk hearings for dairy farmers, a standby supply management program, and, if hearings are not held, then to consider a $20 floor price under milk used to manufacture dairy products.

Abuse not common

My recent discussion about plant-based beverages being deficient in nutrition when compared to cow’s milk with Hoard’s Dairyman Managing Editor Corey Geiger prompted another discussion in the June 24 “Dairy Radio Now” broadcast.

A consumer concern was expressed, in view of the recent Fair Oaks animal abuse allegations, over the common practices on dairy farms. I asked Geiger if dairy animals suffer abuse in order to produce milk, cheese, and butter. He said the video saddened him, but stated that after visiting dairy farms in 46 states in the past 23 years, “This was an isolated incident.”

He added the industry doesn’t tolerate animal abuse on farms, and he told how first responders to a barn fire quickly ask where the dairy farm owner is because they know how farmers value their animals and will often run into a burning barn to rescue them.

There are practices on farms that non-farm people may not understand, but Geiger said, “Farmers want to keep their animals healthy just like moms and dads want to keep their children healthy.”

When asked if Disney and others have almost humanized animals so that non-farm people believe animals think and reason like they do, Geiger responded, “I think it goes beyond Disney. America is blessed to be the richest country in the world, and a lot of people have pets. That relationship is definitely unique and people humanize pets, they buy them clothes and spend quite a bit of money on them, so I think that becomes people’s perception of all animals.”

He said cows do something for humanity that other animals can’t: They eat grass and forages that even a human can’t and turn it into nutritious milk. He talked of being in Vietnam and seeing mothers there buying whey protein for their children because they know it’s the best protein they can get.

“They want their children to be bigger, stronger, and have a better life than them,” he concluded.

Milk & cheese report

U.S. milk production is lagging. The Agriculture Department’s latest Milk Production report pegs preliminary May output at a bullish 19.06 billion pounds, down 0.4 percent from May 2018. Output in the top 24 producing states hit 18.1 billion pounds, down 0.1 percent.

Revisions added 38 million pounds to the original 50-state April total, putting it at 18.47 billion pounds, up 0.3 percent from April 2018. The 23-state total was revised up by 195 million pounds as Georgia was added to the list, making it now a 24-state list. That put output, at 17.6 billion pounds, up 0.5 percent from April 2018.

May cow numbers in the 50 states totaled 9.33 million head, up 5,000 from April but 89,000 below a year ago. With dairy economics being what they are and cull rates running as high as they have been, many question that increase. Output per cow averaged 2,042 pounds, up 12 from a year ago.

Dairy cow culling dropped in May from April, but was above May 2018. The USDA’s latest Livestock Slaughter report shows an estimated 258,100 head were slaughtered under federal inspection, down 10,400 from April but 13,000, or 5.3\ percent, above a year ago. The five-month period saw 1.4 million head retired from the dairy business, up 75,100 or 5.6 percent from a year ago.

The USDA announced the July Federal order Class I base milk price at $17.18 per cwt., up 11 cents from June and $1.82 above July 2018. It is the highest Class I price since January 2017 and the equivalent to $1.48 per gallon, up from $1.32 a year ago. The seven-month average stands at $16.12, up $1.52 from a year ago but 20 cents shy of the 2017 average.

Cheese demand remains “somewhat positive,” according to Dairy Market News. Cheese production has increased and some cheesemakers are reporting deeper discounts on spot milk, with prices 50 cents-$3 under Class. Production schedules are fairly busy, with some at seven-day workweeks for the near-term.

Western contacts are trying to scrutinize the rise in cheese prices. Buyer interest has improved and supplies may be tightening. Retail accounts, foodservice, and export demand have been steady or better than average.

Many cheese facilities are running at or near full production and milk supplies are adequate, but, “There is still enough unease in the market to remind many that until trade issues are fully resolved and stocks are held in balance, volatility and recidivism could take cheese prices back down,” warns News.

 

The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of Farm World. Readers with questions or comments for Lee Mielke may write to him in care of this publication.

6/26/2019