California’s 2010 Dairy Landscape: Strength Amid the Struggle

March 1, 2011 09:50 AM

Improvement seen in milk production, milk per cow and milk prices.

California dairy sceneAlthough 2010 was a year of limited recovery and ongoing struggles as California’s dairy industry continued to cope with many of the issues that plagued 2009, there were signs of strength and improvement during the year, the California Department of Food and Agriculture reported today.

For the first four months in 2010, California milk production recorded net decreases compared to the same months in 2009. However, beginning in May, each month through the end of the year witnessed an increase in total production from the previous year, finishing up the year at a positive 2.2% (+867 million pounds) compared to production totals for 2009.

Milk production per cow in California showed an increase to 21,719 pounds per cow and the number of cows in the state increased slightly to 1.86 million.

Overall, California recorded a net loss of 37 dairies for 2010 compared to 2009. This “net” number of 1,715 dairies operating in California at year end is essentially the number of dairies operating on the last day of December, CDFA said. Stanislaus County, at the northern end of the San Joaquin Valley, recorded the largest net decrease with 11 dairies. That was followed by neighboring Merced County, showing a net decline of 10 dairies. The seven-county area which CDFA calls the Valley region recorded a net loss of 20 dairies, compared to 2009’s net loss of 56 dairies.

Milk prices improved substantially in 2010, with the average price paid to California producers rising to $14.71/cwt., more than $3 per hundredweight above the 2009 average price. CDFA said a combination of strong global dairy prices, increased global demand for dairy products, a cheaper U.S. dollar, and lower-than-expected production in Oceania led to record levels of U.S. dairy exports in 2010.

The 2010 information appears in the March “California Dairy Review,” from CDFA's Dairy Marketing Branch.

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