Global Cow Numbers Declining

GLOBAL - A number of key global dairy producers are recording a significant rise in the level of cow culling in response to the sharp decline in global milk prices, according to Gerard Brickley from the Meat Division at the Irish food marketing agency Bord Bia.
calendar icon 29 June 2009
clock icon 2 minute read

This will have a significant impact on global beef supplies over the coming years at a time when output is already likely to tighten.

An example of this development is evident in the United States where the US dairy farmers group – Cooperatives Working Together, are continuing with a series of culls that is removing around 10,000 head per week.

The Cooperative, which is made up of dairy farmers representing over two thirds of US milk production, has been responsible for removing 276,000 cows from production, through six schemes since it was established in 2003.

The schemes are funded by voluntary deductions from milk payments of participating co-ops. In the current scheme, bids have been accepted for 103,000 cows from 388 herds, ranging is size from 50 to over 5,000 cows, with slaughtering scheduled to be complete by late July/ early August.

Producers must then stay out of production for at least 12 months. This is in addition to the fact that US dairy cow disposals to May were running 11 per cent ahead of the same period in 2008.

In New Zealand, the other Dairy giant, where dairy cow numbers had risen by four per cent in 2007/8, and dairy replacement numbers jumped by 13 per cent, there is now a significant slowdown in the rate of growth.

The cow slaughter rate for the first 19 weeks of the 2008/9 season (1st Oct to 30th Sept) is 45 per cent up on the previous year, indicating that, while there is still growth in the herd, it is back to below the two poer cent level that they have averaged over the last 20 years.

Argentina, known around the world for its beef herd, seems set to become a net beef importer next year. Poor farm profitability from beef, especially when compared to arable options, exacerbated by extreme drought, has resulted in high levels of on-farm losses, increased slaughter levels, and very low pregnancy rates.

This is leading to projections of a 15 per cent drop in production during 2010. Estimates of a 40% decline in the calf crop this year due to the lower fertility rates, will further impact on beef output in the coming years.

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