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Thursday April 26, 2018

Dairy supply outlook

So much milk is now available in this country that a 1,200-dairy New England marketing cooperative last month, for the first time in 50 years, started dumping milk, according to a report by Bloomberg Business News. Dairies in that region dumped 31 percent more milk over the first half of this year than they did during the same time in 2014, Bloomberg cites USDA data as showing. The co-op says the common alternative of shipping surplus milk to this part of the country isn't viable today because no plants have available capacity to process it.

What’s going on with dairy supply?

U.S. domestic output in May reached 18.4 billion pounds, the most in any month and up 1.7 percent from April, and it will likely rise to a record 208.7 billion pounds this year, according to USDA date. Meanwhile, worldwide milk production is also on the climb, increasing 2.1 percent to a record 582.52 million tons. Each U.S. cow averaged 1,911 pounds pounds of milk in April, 19 pounds above April 2014, even as the number of cows increased to 9.305 million head, or about 65,000 head more than April 2014 and about a thousand head more than March 2015. Only California, still crippled by drought, produced less milk compared to this time last year, down 2.1 percent.

U.S. farmers have been in expansion mode since dairy futures reached record territory last September and expectations for low feed prices have increased. Based on April data, the total 2015 forecast for milk production has been raised by 0.1 billion pounds from last month’s projection, as the forecast for yield per cow has been increased by 10 pounds for the year. Even in the face of those supply increases that should pressure costs, though, both dairy product prices and milk prices continue to hold up better than expected. Based on recent price data and strong expected cheese demand, the 2015 forecast for the cheese price has been raised to $1.635 to $1.675 per pound. With recent price changes and abundant supplies, USDA predicts, price forecasts for butter, NDM, and dry whey have been lowered, respectively, to $1.8 to $1.870, $1.005 to $1.045, and 46.5 to 48.5 cents per pound, respectively. Prices have been supported by good butter and cheese sales thus far this year along with dairy product production and stock levels favorable to prices. Butter production has been below a year ago with April down 1.7 percent and year‐to‐date down 2.8 percent. Nevertheless, April butter stocks increased 25 percent over March and were 23 percent higher than April 2014.

Looking ahead to next year, USDA says, the yield per cow forecast for 2016 has been raised from last month’s forecast by 30 pounds, raising the milk production forecast by 0.3 billion pounds to 213.9 billion pounds.

What's on the grill for summer?

Now that Memorial Day has officially kicked off the start of summer grilling season, what price trends will dictate which meats consumers choose? Here's the latest figures.


USDA reports the relentlessly upward trajectory in wholesale beef prices had begun to at least slow down, as the market transitioned into the spring quarter. The choice cutout declined a little over $3 per hundred pounds, topping $2.59 per pound in late April. USDA believes domestic demand has weakened modestly in the near term, although it remains strong by historical standards. For the week ending May 8, the choice cutout valuewas still 24 percent higher than its 3-year average.

Beef price trends


USDA adjusted its second-quarter commercial hog crop predictions by 100 million pounds over previous estimates--nearly 6 percent higher than a year ago when experts feared the new disease Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea was going to cut heavily into pig supplies. As a result of that unexpected increase in supplies, the price of live hogs are expected to average 42 percent below the same period last year. High beef prices combined with ample pork supplies makes it a natural feature for grilling season, USDA anticipates. The agency expects about 1 percent more pork production in 2016, for an average per-pound retail price of $3.70--17 cents lower than the expected 2015 average.

Pork price trends


A current pattern of moderate increases in the number of broilers slaughtered and higher liveweights is expected to continue throughout most of 2015, according to USDA. The supply increases are expected to push forecast broiler meat production in 2015 to 40.2 billion pounds, about 4 percent higher than in 2014. The national wholesale price for whole birds averaged $1.05 per pound in April, up from the first-quarter average of $0.97 per pound but still down 4.8 percent compared with a year earlier. In the parts market, dark meat prices continued to decline due to lower exports. The April average price for leg quarters in the northeastern market totaled $0.33, the lowest monthly price since 2009. Breast meat prices in the northeastern market averaged $1.53 per pound in April, a 13-cent increase from March but still 10.6 percent lower than in April 2014.

Poultry price trends


With its first inventory increase in nearly a decade reported at the beginning of this yar, the U.S. sheep industry is expected to experience tighter supplies as farmers hold back animals from market to use as breeding stock. Even with a larger lamb crop in 2014, USDA expects little change in market supply for this year, with a total forecast production of 152 million pounds. Live animal prices and resulting wholesale markets are expected to remain strong in 2015, averaging $1.53 to $1.62 per pound. Continued tight supplies will likely maintain those prices.

Lamb price trends


Despite reductions by USDA in its turkey production estimates for the second and third quarters of this year based on some 6 million birds lost to an outbreak of avian flu, continued strong production growth in the first three months of this year, along with continued signs of expansion in turkey eggs set for hatching and the number of young birds placed for growout leads the agency to expect total 2015 production to top last year by nearly 4 percent. Wholesale prices were reflecting the supply expectations, with prices for whole hen turkeys averaging $1.04 per pound in April, just 0.5 percent above the previous year. Prices for whole birds and turkey parts are expected to experience some downward pressure for the remainder of 2015. Prices for whole frozen hens are forecast below year-earlier levels throughout 2015. The average national price for frozen whole hens in second-quarter 2015 is forecast at $1.03-$1.07 per pound, about 5 cents below a year earlier, with the yearly price forecast at $1.04-$1.08 per pound, likely to be down from 2014’s $1.08 per pound.

Turkey price trends

Where will beef prices head now?

Encouraged by the return of (some, at least) winter precipitation, America's drought-beaten beef producers now show at least intentions of expanding the supply of cattle. Denver-based market-analytics firm CattleFax predicts the U.S. market for live cattle ready for slaughter hit its top cyclical price in 2014 and in all likelihood is now on its way down the back side of the traditional high/low price cycle.

However, that road back to wholesale price relief for grocers is a long and bumpy one, and will not come soon.

Rain makes grass, and grass makes beef, the old saying goes, meaning cattle ranchers devastated by years of drought are now making plans to start adding more breeding animals. Those obvious intentions, combined with a milder winter that should help farmers achieve those plans, coupled with a strengthening dollar and labor slowdown at West Coast shipping ports that could both tamper beef exports are all working together to push down the cost of live cattle on expectations of rising future supply.

But how quickly that translates to lower wholesale and retail prices is not black-and-white. The undertone in the wholesale beef market currently remains "soft," in USDA's words. But don't confuse that softness with poor demand, the agency's analyst cautions. Historically, total meat consumption tends to languish during the winter quarter, followed by burst of increased consumption as grilling season arrives. So for the first quarter of 2015, at least, buyers at the wholesale level remain reluctant to significantly increase beef purchases.

Retail beef prices rose to record highs in January, with January 2015 Choice retail beef at $6.33 per pound—up almost a dollar from this time last year—and all-fresh retail beef at $6 per pound, up over a dollar from January 2014. Still, at least for the near-term, packers continue to operate in the red. While wholesale beef cutout values did rally noticeably in late February as a result of reduced steer and heifer slaughter, those prices have not risen enough for packers to maintain steady profits, USDA says, although certain components like 90 percent lean beef remain at historical record levels.

USDA predicts beef prices will increase 4.5 percent to 5.5 percent this year--less than half last year's 11 percent to 12 percent increase. Overall retail meat, poultry and fish prices are expected to increase 3 percent to 4 percent.

On the way back to replacing the approximately 3 million breeding cows U.S. ranchers sold off between 2004 and 2010, supply will test the market's patience. All indications say we will have a larger crop of new calves born in the spring months, but that doesn't correlate to a bigger supply of market-ready cattle until 2016.

Avian influenza threatening poultry prices?

A highly contagious strain of avian influenza found so far in at least 60 commercial poultry flocks, according to USDA reports, has some market watchers spooked. Most of the affected flocks are turkey operations in the midwest, and the state of Minnesota, the nation’s top turkey producer, has suffered worst, losing an estimated 2.6 million birds, and prompting the state's governor to declare a state of emergency. At risk is the approximately $4.8 billion value of some 200 million turkeys this country grows annually. But with detection of the virus in wild birds along the Mississippi and Pacific Flyways indicating the virus is active in migratory bird populations, the deeper fear is the virus could approach the chicken-producing centers of the eastern U.S.

Several European and Asian have placed some restrictions on imports of U.S. poultry as a result of the outbreak. As of its mid-April report, USDA was reporting 2015 turkey exports would fall 10.5 percent, to 720 million pounds, due to trade restrictions in China and Korea, the strength of the dollar against most currencies, and restrictions on U.S. exports due to the outbreaks. U.S. turkey meat production in first quarter 2015 is now estimated at 1.4 billion pounds, 25 million pounds less than the previous estimate but 7 percent higher than a year earlier. Turkey cold storage holdings at the end of February were 323 million pounds, an increase of 4 percent from a year earlier.

Meanwhile, although broiler meat production in January was 5 percent higher than the previous year, production in February was down 1 percent to 3 billion pounds; however, the estimate for first-quarter 2015 remained at 9.7 billion pounds, an increase of 5 percent from a year earlier. Current data point toward a strong increase in broiler meat production in March based on one additional slaughter day, leading to a higher number of birds slaughtered, in addition to continued increases in average liveweights. In February the number of birds slaughtered fell by 2 percent, but that decline was partially offset by a 1-percent increase in average liveweights at slaughter. This pattern of moderate growth in the number of birds slaughtered and higher liveweights is expected to continue throughout most of 2015. The increases are expected to push forecast broiler meat production in 2015 to 40 billion pounds, 4 percent higher than in 2014.

Although this outbreak of avian influenza, the worst in years, does pose significant risk to the industry and can be devastating to individual flocks, it's prudent to remember the world's strongest surveillance program for the disease. Federal and state animal health agencies along with industry has responded to try to contain and control the outbreak through several measures:

* Restricting movement of poultry and poultry-moving equipment into and out of specific quarantine areas

* Euthanizing affected flocks to prevent spread

* Testing wild and domestic birds in a broad area around the quarantine area

* Disinfecting affected flock locations to kill remaining virus

* Retesting to confirm affected farms remain virus-free. USDA also is working with its partners to actively look and test for the disease in commercial poultry operations, live bird markets and in migratory wild bird populations.

Farmer Goes to Market will keep you updated on important developments. Use the comment section to leave us your questions.


USDA reported that during the final two months of 2014, egg prices in most markets experienced a brief but sharp peak in prices. Wholesale prices for Grade A large eggs in the New York market averaging $1.28 per dozen the final week of October spiked more than 70 percent by the first week of December, rising to $2.19 per dozen.

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