Proposed Dutch dairy cull could help to maintain EU milk prices

Farm lobby groups are putting pressure on the Dutch government to introduce a cow culling policy, which would see up to 170,000 animals taken out of the country’s national dairy herd.

This number represents 11% of the Dutch national dairy herd.

The proposal is part of an overall strategy which will allow the Netherlands meet its EU Phosphate and Nitrate obligations from 2017 onwards.

AHDB Dairy Analyst Kate Ward said that no final decision has yet been taken on the proposed cull.

“But if it does go ahead the proportionate fall in milk output will be somewhat less than the 11% drop in cow numbers.

“This is because farmers will preferentially cull their least producing cows. But if the envisaged cull does come to pass, then there may well be a drop in Dutch dairy output.”

Ward admitted that any move to reduce milk output in Europe would have a strengthening impact on dairy markets. She also noted the decision by the European Commission to sell off 22,500t of milk powder out of intervention stores.

“This is product that has been in store for quite a number of months. It seems that the Commission is seeking to sell off its dairy intervention stocks on a gradual basis.”

This will have the least damaging effect on dairy markets. To that extent, it is a development that should be welcomed.

Ward also said that UK milk production levels are unlikely to increase in the near future.

“Despite the recent rise in farm gate prices, producers still have significant debts to clear.

“They are also facing acute cash flow problems. And given this scenario, it’s unlikely that farmers will be in a position to increase milk output levels in the near future.”