California’s Dairy Industry in 2017
For California in 2017, compared to the previous year, total milk production was down 1.7 percent, the number of dairy cows declined 0.2 percent, milk per cow dropped 1.5 percent, and the number of dairies decreased by 4.4 percent. The 12-month average price paid to California producers for farm milk in 2017 was $16.50 per hundredweight (cwt.), which represents an increase of 9.8 percent from the previous year.
California milk production decreased each month through 2017, compared to the same month in the previous year. Total milk production for 2017 was 39.8 billion pounds, which is 669.0 million pounds less than the previous year. The five leading milk producing counties (Tulare, Merced, Kings, Stanislaus, and Kern) accounted for 72.4 percent of the state’s total milk production in 2017. Grade B milk production in 2017 increased by 34.4 percent (272.7 million more pounds), when compared to 2016. In 2017, the total number of cows in the state was estimated to be 1.735 million head, and milk production per cow was estimated at 22,916 pounds.
Utilization & Dairy Products
In 2017, pooled milk utilized in the production of butter and dried milk products (Class 4a) increased slightly to 32.5 percent (from 32.3 percent in 2016). The percentage of pooled milk going into the production of cheese and whey products (Class 4b) decreased slightly to 46.2 percent (from 46.4 percent in 2016). In comparison to the previous year, 2017 California butter production decreased by 5.1 percent to 534.4 million pounds, nonfat dry milk (human) production decreased by 0.9 percent to 562.0 million pounds, and the production of other dry milk products decreased by 1.9 percent to 406.9 million pounds. California’s total cheese production decreased by 0.1 percent from a record level in 2016, to 2.513 billion pounds in 2017. For the top three cheeses produced in the state in 2017, compared to 2016, Mozzarella production decreased 1.3 percent to 1.472 billion pounds, Cheddar production increased 3.3 percent to 355.5 million pounds, and Monterey Jack production decreased 9.3 percent to 277.2 million pounds. In 2017, utilization of pooled milk for fluid milk products (Class 1) decreased slightly to 12.8 percent (from 13.0 percent in 2016). Whole milk sales in California increased to 216.9 million gallons in 2017, while yearend sales of reduced fat milk, lowfat milk, and skim milk decreased to 219.2 million gallons, 93.3 million gallons, and 72.1 million gallons, respectively. Half-and-half sales increased 2.5 percent compared to the previous year, to 20.3 million gallons in 2017. As a whole, Class 1 sales continued to decline in 2017, recording an overall decrease of 3.2 percent compared to 2016.
During each of the first ten months of 2017, milk prices in California exceeded prices realized during the corresponding month of the previous year. However, milk prices began to decline during the fourth quarter of the year, as increased global milk production and excess dairy product inventory levels outweighed the global market demand for dairy products. The average monthly price paid to California producers for farm milk in 2017 reached its highest level in both January and August at $17.44/cwt., and reached its lowest level in April at $15.29/cwt. During the final three months of the year, the average milk price decreased by 10.3 percent, from $17.32/cwt. in October to $15.53/cwt. in December.
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