8 votes

As dairy crisis deepens, American farmers are warned that milk dumping could harm the environment

12 comments

  1. [2]
    jcdl
    Link
    You might be wondering why they don't just stop milking the cows. Dairy cows are kept on a constant pregnancy cycle because that's how mother nature produces milk. Cows, like every other...

    On Friday, cooperatives were telling members to cut milk production through culling cows or other means because processing plants had nowhere for the milk to go.

    You might be wondering why they don't just stop milking the cows. Dairy cows are kept on a constant pregnancy cycle because that's how mother nature produces milk. Cows, like every other breastfeeding mammal, have to keep the milk flowing or face serious health consequences (blocked ducts, infection, etc).

    Farmers have a tough choice now, because each cow is a multi-year investment. A massive cull today will mean there will be fewer new calves each season, which will make it even harder to rebuild the herd. This will have a deep rippling effect on the entire downstream market for years to come. I'm thinking of leather and the wide assortment of meats.

    A big cull would also really screw up butcheries and that supply chain. It really is a nightmare scenario.

    The medium term solution, I imagine, would be to keep as much as the existing herd alive as possible, but keep them barren, but that comes at the immense cost of keeping them alive without milk production.

    I don't know how possible it would be to pivot to having calves stay with their mothers to be raised "naturally", but I can't see giant dairy farms having the infrastructure to manage that on a huge scale to get over the slump in demand.

    9 votes
    1. monarda
      Link Parent
      The problem with milk cows is that even if you put their calves on them they still produce more milk than the calf can drink, so they would still need to be milked at least in the short term until...

      The problem with milk cows is that even if you put their calves on them they still produce more milk than the calf can drink, so they would still need to be milked at least in the short term until they could get her milk production down and the calves intake up (Holsteins, the majority of our dairy herd, average about 9 gallons a day).

      The only other "solution" would be to sell the milk to pig farmers, but I doubt our pig farmers are set up to hold and feed milk, and I don't know if it would make economic sense for the pig farmers to even consider it.

      The entire thing is a disaster, and I feel for our dairy farmers. I imagine when the dust settles that this industry as well as many others, will be gobbled up by larger organizations making it even harder for independents to compete.

      6 votes
  2. [10]
    dubteedub
    Link
    I really do not understand the perspective here of farmers dumping their milk products due to lack of sales. Is there no ability for them to donate the milk to local grocery stores or anywhere...

    I really do not understand the perspective here of farmers dumping their milk products due to lack of sales. Is there no ability for them to donate the milk to local grocery stores or anywhere else? Can they just convert the extra milk to cheese, dry milk, or other products to wait this thing out when the market turns around?

    I understand that this issue is coming when Americans are drinking less cows milk and more dairy alternatives, but I just do not understand the logic here.

    3 votes
    1. Akir
      Link Parent
      The US dairy industry is somewhat insane. To my understanding there is actually a minimum price at which milk can be sold. There is a giant powerful dairy industry lobby, which is why our...

      The US dairy industry is somewhat insane. To my understanding there is actually a minimum price at which milk can be sold. There is a giant powerful dairy industry lobby, which is why our government keeps recommending drinking milk every day.

      8 votes
    2. [2]
      monarda
      Link Parent
      From this article it looks like the farmers cannot offload their product to the processor which means the farms are left with raw milk which they legally cannot sell or give away for consumption.

      From this article it looks like the farmers cannot offload their product to the processor which means the farms are left with raw milk which they legally cannot sell or give away for consumption.

      6 votes
      1. Omnicrola
        Link Parent
        I did some superficial research a few months ago when I began looking into making cheese as a hobby. It turns out that it is illegal in a lot of states for farmers to sell their milk (which is...

        I did some superficial research a few months ago when I began looking into making cheese as a hobby. It turns out that it is illegal in a lot of states for farmers to sell their milk (which is usually unpasteurized and "raw" hence the appeal for cheese making ) directly to the public. There are some workarounds, such as buying "part" of a cow and sharing the milk.

        3 votes
    3. MimicSquid
      Link Parent
      If they sell more cheaply, they face a situation where they hurt the industry as a whole. Think of it like wage negotiations: if they compete on price below a certain point they're hurting the...

      If they sell more cheaply, they face a situation where they hurt the industry as a whole. Think of it like wage negotiations: if they compete on price below a certain point they're hurting the long term viability of their business as well as everyone else in the dairy industry.

      Of course this doesn't resolve long-term changes in consumption, but it's a reasonable solution in an environment that carries on the status quo.

      5 votes
    4. [3]
      jcdl
      Link Parent
      I’m by no means a free market capitalist, but isn’t the obvious “market” response to just drop prices? To me this signals that we’re entering post scarcity.

      I’m by no means a free market capitalist, but isn’t the obvious “market” response to just drop prices?

      To me this signals that we’re entering post scarcity.

      3 votes
      1. [2]
        Loire
        Link Parent
        There is no price point ar which I will choose traditional milk over the alternatives. I don't think people are buying almond milk as a function of cost.

        There is no price point ar which I will choose traditional milk over the alternatives.

        I don't think people are buying almond milk as a function of cost.

        5 votes
        1. jcdl
          Link Parent
          Same here. I'm lactose intolerant and buy either almond or oat milk.

          Same here. I'm lactose intolerant and buy either almond or oat milk.

          2 votes
    5. [2]
      Gyrfalcon
      Link Parent
      Things like this often lead to oddities like Government Cheese. I'm interested to see if something like that will make a comeback, but I don't know that that would be the best idea right now.

      Things like this often lead to oddities like Government Cheese. I'm interested to see if something like that will make a comeback, but I don't know that that would be the best idea right now.

      3 votes
      1. monarda
        Link Parent
        Government cheese was a lifesaver back when we were way below the poverty level. They also had the peanut butter. Combined they helped insure my kids got the fat and protein they needed to grow. I...

        Government cheese was a lifesaver back when we were way below the poverty level. They also had the peanut butter. Combined they helped insure my kids got the fat and protein they needed to grow. I was so incredibly grateful to get them.

        2 votes