As printed in our July 2014 issue...

MILK TRUMPED MEAT as dairy producers reduced culling by 11.5 percent from January through May (155,000 head) to capitalize on historically high milk prices and pass on record beef payouts. Fewer dairy cows (209,000) were culled in May than any other month since November 2009.

HOLSTEIN SPRINGERS FETCHED an average of $2,225 per head in June at California's Tulare Livestock Auction in response to profitable milk checks. Those replacement values have mirrored the national trend.

CATTLE FUTURES SURGED to an all-time high in June as the peak grilling season placed additional pressure on supplies. Beef prices show no signs of easing as the cattle herd remained at a 63-year low.

MORE COWS, rather than more milk per cow, has fueled U.S. milk production. Cow numbers rose by 54,000 head from November to May, while May milk per cow was up a mere 0.1 percent over April.

OUTSIDE OF MICHIGAN, milk flow in the Northeast and Midwest has been sluggish for the past six months when compared to year-earlier levels. Meanwhile, the Western states continue to expand output.

CALIFORNIA'S MUCH-TALKED-ABOUT DROUGHT should have minimal impact on 2014 production as first crop hay had enough water to make milk-quality forage. A further extended dry spell could impact 2015.

CROP FORECASTS REMAINED FAVORABLE for buyers as USDA has projected a record corn harvest. Relatively high inventories of oilseeds also have placed downward pressure on the soybean markets.

FUTURES CONTRACTS have remained relatively strong with trading near $21 per hundredweight for Class III futures through year's end.

BUTTERFAT HAS BEEN TIGHTER than any other dairy product on a global basis. With inventories substantially below last year, coupled with strong demand, spot butter has been trading in the $2.30 range.

HAVING NOTCHED ITS FIRST GAIN since January 2014, prices at New Zealand's Global Dairy Trade rose 0.9 percent. The market has been a bellwether of Southern Hemisphere and Asian dairy demand.

BRIEFLY: Joint inspections by the EPA and Wisconsin's Department of Natural Resources have taken place on seven large CAFOs and seven small-to-medium CAFOs. A full report is expected in December. The Clean Water Act's regulations could be expanded to bodies of water such as drainage ditches connected to larger bodies of water. Farm groups have been strongly opposed, calling it an overreach. FDA quickly back peddled on its proposed rule to do away with using wood forms to age cheese after widespread industry and consumer backlash. Cropland values jumped 14 percent across the nation in 2013. At 575,000 tons, alfalfa exports to China posted a new record that was matched by a watermark of $706 million in dairy product sales in 2013.

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