Reduced herd weighs on production

Published 20 September 17

GB milk production has been running slightly ahead of last year in recent months. However, overall production for the year so far is still slightly behind 2016. By using a combination of data from BCMS, Kingshay and Defra, AHDB is able to look at the key drivers that underlie overall milk volumes.  

GB milk production from Jan to Jul 2017 was 43m litres lower than over the same period last year, after adjusting for the 2016 leap year. Milk yield showed an overall improvement from 2016 to 2017, the reverse of what happened a year earlier. According to Kingshay, the milk yield generated from forage was worse in 2017 than 2016, suggesting that the increase came from an improved yield from concentrates. After a dip in 2016, levels of concentrate use are now back on par with two years ago. It is likely that farmers increased their concentrate use in 2017 as milk prices improved, making their use more financially beneficial.

In contrast to the improved milk yields, the impact from a reduced herd is estimated to have been larger than last year, and outweighs any gains from yields. Actions were taken to reduce the herd during 2015 and 2016, but it can take some time for the full effects to feed through to production. Although the average herd size from Jan to July 2017 is down on 2016, this reduction is mostly from the beginning of the year; dairy herd numbers have been stabilising in recent months.

With the milk yields showing overall improvement, it is the reduction in the herd size that has been the key driver in keeping production down. While recent volumes are running ahead of last year, it is likely this is being driven by further improved milk yields, with changes in the herd size taking longer to flow through. 

2017.09.21 Production Bridge