Conditions cause early milk peak

By Dairy News

VICTORIA’S MILK production peaked earlier this season, as dry conditions hit pastures and high grain and fodder prices bite.

This comes as total Australian milk production is expected to be down five to seven per cent to less than 9 billion litres for the first time in 20 years, according to Dairy Australia.

The biggest milk production day for most processors in the industry is understood to have occurred in October, a few weeks before the ‘traditional’ peak in early November.

Dairy Australia analyst John Droppert said “anecdotally” this was a result of dry conditions, particularly pasture quality and feed availability.

A Fonterra spokeswoman said Victorian milk collection regions peaked in mid-October, about two weeks earlier than usual.

Tasmania’s peak matched previous seasons and occurred in early November.

Fonterra said challenging seasonal conditions and “historically high” input costs were impacting milk volumes.

Bega Cheese milk production also peaked in mid-October, with 4–4.5 million litres for the day, according to a Bega Cheese spokeswoman.

This volume was about 30 to 40 per cent more than previous years due to additional supply and the acquisition of the Koroit milk processing site, in western Victoria, earlier in the year.

Bega Cheese is expected to buck the trend of declining milk supply, with volumes ‘sheltered’ thanks to the new milk, according to the spokeswoman. But Bega will still be impacted by dry conditions.

“The drier conditions place great pressure on our suppliers, particularly those in the Bega Valley, Victoria’s north and east Gippsland,” she said.

“We have introduced measures to support. We are constantly monitoring the impacts across all our supply network.”

Waaia farmer James Dillon will consider culling more cows due to the dry conditions. He has culled 50 and now milks 240 on his northern Victorian property.

The milking herd’s diet also hasn’t been as nutrient-rich, and irrigation water at “over $400 a megalitre” as well as high fodder costs has all caused a production decline.

“I was ahead for the first three months and behind in October and November and now even for the year now, as such, but from now on it gets horrible,” Mr Dillon said.