Milk-Cow Drought Culling Accelerates as Prices Jump
U.S. milk production is headed for the biggest contraction in 12 years as a drought-fueled surge in feed costs drives more cows to slaughter.
Output will drop 0.5 percent to 198.9 billion pounds (90.2 million metric tons) in 2013 as the herd shrinks to an eight- year low, the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates. Milk futures rose 45 percent since mid-April and may advance at least another 18 percent to a record $25 per 100 pounds by June, said Shawn Hackett. The president of Boynton Beach, Florida-based Hackett Financial Advisers Inc. correctly predicted the rally in March.
Dairies in California, the top milk-producing state, are filing for bankruptcy, and U.S. cows are being slaughtered at the fastest rate in more than a quarter century. Corn surged to a record in August as the USDA forecast the smallest crop in six years because of drought across the U.S. Global dairy prices tracked by the United Nations rose 6.9 percent last month, the most among the five food groups monitored, and that will probably mean record costs next year, Rabobank estimates.
“Farmers can’t afford to buy as much grain and protein, and that affects milk production,” said Bob Cropp, an economist at the University of Wisconsin in Madison who has been following the industry since 1966. “In California, there’ve been some foreclosures and some sell-off of cows quite heavily. You’re going to see that in other parts of the country.”