How high will milk production go?

Published 5 March 17

GB milk production for the week ending 18 February averaged 32.3ml/day. For the previous three years, milk production in the middle of February has been virtually the same, at 33.2ml/day. The question is, what does that tell us about where production could go between now and the spring peak?

GB milk production Feb v May 

2015 saw the most rapid increase in volumes between mid-Feb and May over the last three years, with 2016 recording the slowest. The 12% increase recorded in 2015 is not unusual, with production increasing by this rate three times out of the last 12 years. Whereas, the rate recorded in 2016 is the slowest for many years. Applying the same range of increases this year would put GB production in May somewhere between 1,070ml and 1,120ml. The question is whether we can narrow that range down.

Overall volumes are simply a combination of the number of cows in milk and the yield per cow. We know from a previous article that cow numbers at the start of 2017 were 1.6% down on the previous year, but the number of 12-30-month-olds has increased. Projecting the cow numbers forward shows that, by April 2017, the milking herd has the potential to be slightly higher than it was the year before.

In general, year-on-year changes in milk yield are impacted by the affordability of feed, and the Milk to Feed Price Ratio (MFPR). On the assumption that the MFPR will be better in 2017 than it was last year, due to the recent increases in milk price, milk yields should show a year-on-year increase rather than the reduction recorded in the spring of 2016.

All of this suggests that milk production in May should come out towards the top end of the above range, although, as always, much will be determined by the British weather.