EU milk production expected to climb 0.9% in 2019

Given the sustained demand for EU dairy products, milk collections could grow by 0.9% in the EU in 2019, a new short-term outlook from the European Commission has outlined.

In addition, in 2019, EU production of dairy products is expected to increase by 0.7%, driven mainly by cheese (+1.5%).

Growth is also expected in cream and butter production (around +1%) and for skimmed milk powder, but on a smaller scale (+0.3%). In the case of liquid milk, production will probably continue to decline (-1%).

Furthermore, the report outlines demand for European dairy products is expected to remain strong, resulting in increased domestic use (+0.8%) and exports (+4%).

Table source: Short-term outlook for EU agricultural markets in 2018 and 2019

2018 production

The report also outlines the changes witnessed in EU milk production this year.

In the period to July, EU milk collections were almost 2% higher than last year. However, exceptionally dry and warm conditions over most of the summer in central and northern Germany, Benelux and north-eastern France had a severe impact on grassland growth and forage production.

Pasture productivity – since July – in these countries has been the lowest for 20 years. By contrast, the report states, damp conditions favoured grass growth in the main grassland areas of Poland.

In addition, precipitation at the end of the summer allowed the grass to recover in Ireland. In Germany and France, the drop in collections – as a result of the drought – lasted a few weeks only (in August) and milk production is now back to last year’s level.

Nevertheless, it states, in the second half of the year, EU-28 collection is expected to be 0.3% down on last year (when weather conditions were good) as farmers may face a lack of forage.

This could limit the overall annual increase to 0.8% compared with 2017.

According to the outlook, production in the second half of the year will probably be determined by precipitation and the existence and duration of mild autumn temperatures. Farmers may use meal to compensate for the shortage of forage, but this will depend on the margins offered.

As regards the main milk-producing countries, production is expected to be higher than last year in Germany, Belgium, Italy, Poland and Spain – with sustained growth of around 2-3%.

On the other hand, collections are likely to below last year’s levels in Ireland and in the Netherlands. The forage shortage may also have an impact at the beginning of next season.

Cow culling

Due to the lack of fodder, some farmers have brought cow slaughterings forward, which has resulted in shorter lactation periods.

In the first half of 2018, cow slaughterings increased by 1% only; but over the summer, they increased further.

At the same time, slaughterings of heifers continued to rise. In the period to June, there was 6% more than last year, hinting at a lower replacement rate of dairy cows.

Change in the number of dairy cows

The latest Eurostat livestock survey (May-June)12 indicates a 0.1% drop in dairy cow numbers compared with the same period last year. The dairy herd continued to grow (by around 3%) in Ireland and Poland.

The number of dairy cows dropped most in the Netherlands by 4%, largely as a result to increased slaughterings due to the obligation to reduce phosphate emissions.