California Achieved Record Milk Production in 2011

March 23, 2012 06:46 AM

The state’s producers achieved their highest-ever output with fewer cows and dairies. Most milk was turned into cheese and butter.

For California, 2011 was a year of very mild weather and the highest year on record for commercial milk production, the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) notes in its recently released 2011 California Dairy Statistics.
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In fact, last year’s milk output rose 1.07 billion pounds, or 2.7%, over 2010’s production.

California milk producers experienced higher prices, which helped with margins on the dairy, and feed availability continued to play a role in the cost to produce milk. For the state’s dairy processors, both national and global supply and demand conditions of finished dairy products were strong, with national exports setting a record in volume and total value. However, the end of the year showed increased global competition, which may play a role in 2012 prices, CDFA says.

Throughout 2011, there were signs of strength and improvement in the economy. Milk prices improved substantially in 2011, with the average price paid to producers rising to $18.52, up nearly $4 per cwt. above the 2010 average price. Total bulk milk production in California was up 2.7% from 2010, the total number of cows was down 1.2%, milk per cow was up 4.%, and the number of dairies decreased 2.8%.

For all 12 months of 2011, California milk production recorded net increases compared to the same months in 2010. The year finished at a positive 2.7% (+1.07 billion pounds) compared to milk production totals for 2010. The five leading milk producing counties recorded 71.1% of the milk production in 2011: Tulare, Merced, Kings, Stanislaus, and Kern counties. Grade B milk production in 2011 recorded a decrease of 66.5% (-1.4 billion pounds) compared to 2010.
Milk production per cow in 2011 was estimated at 22,625 pounds and the number of cows in the state decreased slightly to 1.84 million cows.

Milk utilization in 2011 followed the previous year’s pattern with butter and nonfat dry milk powder use remaining relatively the same, at 35.0%, compared to 34.8% in 2010. The percentage of the milk supply going into cheese production (Class 4b) increased to 43.0% in 2011, up from 41.0% in 2010.

Compared to 2010, California’s 2011 nonfat dry milk production decreased 11.7%, other dry milk products increased 138.0%, and butter production increased 11.7%. Mozzarella production, which accounts for more than half of total California cheese production, was responsible for a significant amount of the increase in Class 4b utilization. Of the top three cheeses: Mozzarella increased 3.8%, Cheddar fell 4.4%, and Monterey Jack showed a slight decrease of 0.8%. The utilization of pooled milk into Class 1 (fluid milk) products continued its downward trend, falling to 13.5% (down from 15.0% in 2010). Class 1 sales continued to decline, recording a decrease of 1.6% compared to 2010.

Reduced fat milk and half-and-half recorded increased sales in 2011, while whole, low-fat, and skim milks all showed decreases in sales.

The 12-month average price paid to California producers in 2011 was $18.52 per cwt., compared to $14.70 per cwt. in 2010. Prices peaked in June at $20.31, but ended the year at $17.38. The end of 2011 found increased milk production, growing inventories of dairy products, and decreasing prices paid to producers. New Zealand and Australia resumed normal to higher milk production levels after setbacks caused last year by drought (New Zealand) and floods (Australia).

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