Can Texas’ Dairy Farmers Beat the Heat?

Lack of rain and high temperature have some in the dairy industry nervous.

By Rhonda FanningAugust 13, 2015 5:13 pm| ,

Here’s the headline that grabbed our attention: “Summer heat dries up Texas milk production.”
To our ears, it sounds a lot like we’re on the road to a milk shortage.

Texas is the sixth largest milk producing state in the nation. So this wouldn’t just be bad news for us, but could potentially affect consumers nationwide. We know how this stuff works; supply goes down, prices go up.

And if heat is to blame, well, it doesn’t help that dairy cows don’t sweat. So should we be sweating a potential milk shortage?

Ellen Jordan, Professor and Extension Dairy Specialist at Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center, joins the Standard.

On seasonal fluctuations in milk production and milk consumption:

“Every year we go through a period of heat which does decrease milk production. In June… our production was actually down about 2 percent from last year, but milk consumption is lower during the summer because the kids are out of school. And as we go back to school this fall, our cows are going to be in cooler weather again, consumption’s going to go up from consumers, and we won’t be in a shortage.”

On whether consumers need to worry about a milk shortage:

“From a consumer standpoint, no. We’re going to have milk produced here in this country and we’re very effective at moving it around the country to make sure that consumers always have milk in the grocery stores.”

On how lower milk consumption in the summer affects producers:

“It matters to the producer because he’s getting paid less because he’s producing less, but the consumer isn’t going to feel that. The other thing that’s happened is our milk price this year is 27 percent lower than what it was last year. So our producers are actually being paid less and consumers should be seeing lower prices in the store. With the price where it is today, our producers are just kind of breaking even. Feed costs are higher than what they were 10 years ago and our milk price has dropped… so they’re not making much money now.”

On why consumers might not be seeing a lower milk prices in the store:

“It does take a little bit of time and some prices have gone down, but the stores try to maintain a fairly level price so that consumers do not see the seasonal fluctuations that we have.”