Will GB milk production fall to 11.9 - 12.2bn litres in 2016/17?

Published 13 June 16

GB milk production for the month of May has been estimated at 1,116m litres, 3.2% down on May last year, and in line with May 2014. Obvious factors, such as above-average rainfall, low spring temperatures and ongoing low farmgate prices, have significantly dampened milk production recently.

So how long will the drop in milk production last and what might be in store for the rest of the year?

There are various methods for forecasting milk production. However, a number of external factors can impact on volumes and mean forecasts can only ever be regarded as an indication of what might occur. It’s often said that milk production in the spring sets the volume for the rest of the year. In fact, compared with overall spring volumes, May alone has historically given a stronger indication of milk production for the remainder of the milk year. May normally sees the most rapid grass growth and is the most significant month for cutting silage, which then influences production over winter.

Based on May 2016 volumes, AHDB’s mathematical model gives a GB milk production prediction for 2016/17 of between 11.9bn and 12.2bn litres. The midpoint of this range, at just over 12.0bn litres, would be approximately 4% down on last year. 

GB milk production projection 2016-17

Source: AHDB estimates

How closely does the model match reality?

The model cannot predict with certainty how milk production over the remainder of the year will be influenced by external factors such as weather conditions and milk prices. 2012/13 saw one of the wettest springs on record, and annual milk production fell 1.3% short of the model’s predicted range. Conversely, 2013/14 saw record high milk prices, and annual production finished 2.5% above the top of the range. However, in ten out of the last twelve years, milk production has ended the year within the range returned by the model. We conclude that, despite some limitations, the model does give us a good indication of where overall milk production is likely to come out.