USDA’s Oct. 18 milk production report showed California cow numbers increased 27,000 head over October 2010, and milk production jumped 2.4%.
Does this mean California is again in "expansion" mode? Not necessarily, says John Kaczor of the California Milk Producers Council
. Kaczor points out that 1.779 million cows reported in October gets the state back to where it was five years ago
, when California reported 1.778 million cows.
California added cows in 2007 and 2008, peaking at 1.845 million cows in 2008. But then 2009 happened, where many California dairy operations struggled to cover even feed costs. By October 2009, California cow numbers dropped 78,000 head and dropped another 15,000 head in 2010, reaching 1.752 million a year ago.
Last week’s October milk production report showed those numbers rebounding 27,000 head, back to 2006 levels.
"California’s 6% increase in milk production over the five years [since 2006] totally comes from increases in production per cow," Kaczor writes. "That reflects astute management practices in the face of outrageously high feed costs compared to all but a handful of other states and to lower mailbox prices bar none."
For years, California had increased production simply by adding more corrals and more cows. Its per cow average, while better than the national average, hung in there at about 20,000 lb./cow. No more. California milk per cow is now flirting with 23,000 lb./cow—putting other states on notice that there’s more than one way to stay competitive in commodity milk markets.