With burgeoning demand for high-solids dairy products and financial incentives in place to deliver higher solids milk, Upper Midwest dairy farmers continue to set new benchmarks for butterfat and protein levels.
Here’s the butterfat record board — 3.96% in 2020; 4.04% in 2021; and 4.12% in 2022.
Keep in mind that butterfat content languished between 3.65% and 3.75% just a decade earlier. In fact, butterfat levels were only 3.68% in 2010, reported Harold Ferguson, who works for the Upper Midwest Federal Milk Marketing Order and tracks data.
While not as dramatic, protein values also showed marked improvement — 3.15% in 2020; 3.17% in 2021; and 3.22% in 2022. Going back to 2000, annual protein levels were 3% for milk shipped from farms in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, the northern rims of Illinois and Iowa, and the eastern portions of North and South Dakota. By 2010, that number shimmied ever so slightly to 3.03% protein.
From the processor’s standpoint, this higher component milk yields more cheese. That’s important as cheese is the top-selling dairy product these days.
In addition to enhanced milk component levels, milk quality also has improved over time. In 2001, somatic cell counts averaged 344,000 cells per milliliter in the seven-state region. Over time that has steadily dropped and now stands near 170,000 cells per milliliter.
The shift in the component levels in milk goes far beyond the Upper Midwest Federal Milk Marketing Order. To learn more, read, “Butterfat varies greatly by region.”