How high will milk production go and can we cope?

Published 16 March 16

Average daily milk deliveries in GB are now closely tracking last year’s level, having slowed in the first few months of the year. 2015/16 now looks set to come out at around 12,520m litres, some 3% higher than last year.

Applying a normal profile, based on the average of the last three years, would suggest this year’s spring peak production level could be similar to last year. However, dairy cow numbers have increased since last year and yields have been on a continuing upward trend. Therefore, the national herd’s milk production capability is theoretically higher than last spring. This theoretical capability will likely be dampened by the current wet ground conditions and lower milk prices and, as always, the spring weather remains an unknown.

Looking at how milk production has risen on the approach to the peak in previous years, the normal profile would estimate a May average of around 37m litres per day. Theoretically though, the national herd could have the potential to produce nearly 39m litres per day during May, based on recent cow numbers and yields.

If GB deliveries did peak close to this upper level, AHDB estimates that processing capacity would just about be sufficient to cope. That estimate is based on feedback from milk processors on the capability of their sites. Also, in May last year, the country coped with a peak of 37.5m litres and this year there is an additional 1m litres capacity from Yew Tree Dairies. However, this theoretical capacity assumes all plants run to their full capability. In the past, it would be unusual to see all the main processing sites in the country running at capacity without hitch or breakdown for the entire spring peak. Indeed, in 2015, although the country coped with a peak of 37.5m litres, it was not without incident caused by site operational issues. 

GB deliveries 16Mar16