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Drought Takes Toll on Oceania Output

DailyDairy Vol. 9, No. 19 / April 28, 2020 REPORT

Oceania milk production is dropping. New Zealand’s season-to-date milk production trails last year by almost 1%, while Australia’s milk collections are down 2% from year-ago levels. Dry weather throughout much of New Zealand is responsible for March’s 1.9% drop in production to 1.68 million metric tons, or 3.7 billion pounds, compared to year-earlier levels. Current soil moisture maps indicate that conditions are drier than a year ago and markedly drier than average. Drought has hit the North Island, which produces 60% of New Zealand’s milk, harder than the South Island. In New Zealand’s pasture-based dairy system, dry weather means less milk overall as cows are culled or dried off sooner than usual due to a lack of high-quality forages. New Zealand’s milk solids production in March increased 0.1% to 161,600 metric tons, compared to March 2019 levels. Season to date, milk solids are 0.3% higher than the same period a year ago, despite lower overall milk production due to farmers supplementing pasture feeding with more high-energy feeds. USDA’s Dairy Market News reports that concerns over both exports and New Zealand’s 2020-21 pay price are increasing due to the coronavirus pandemic, but that exports for the balance of this season are expected keep pace with supply. Exports in the upcoming season, however, are less certain. Long-term weather forecasts indicate dry conditions will likely continue and feed is in short supply as winter approaches. Australia’s milk collections in March came in 7% higher than last year at just over 643 million liters, or 1.46 billion pounds. After a slow start to Australia’s milking season, March is the fourth consecutive month in which milk collections increased relative to year-ago levels. The recent increases in milk collections can be credited to improving drought conditions. Australia has produced 2% less milk so far in the 2019-20 season compared to the previous season. The country has seen a steady decline in its dairy industry over the past 20 years, as dairies exit the business due to the country’s multi-year drought.