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Wisconsin dairy industry has record-breaking 2013

Maureen McCollum, Wisconsin Public Radio

 Wisconsin’s dairy industry continued to break production and revenue records in 2013, and researchers predict that those trends will continue.

According to this year’s Status of Wisconsin Agriculture report produced by the University of Wisconsin, a record 27.7 billion pounds of milk was produced in Wisconsin in 2013. The industry also made more money than ever before -- but that doesn’t mean dairy producers made record profits, although they came close. High feed costs cut into their earnings.

The number of dairy cows in the state has continued to steadily grow over the last decade, following a sharp decline in dairy cows in the 1980s and ’90s. Although dairy producers don’t have as many cows as they did decades ago, the cows they have now are producing more milk than ever.

Mark Stephenson, the director of Dairy Policy Analysis at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, worked on the study.

“That trend for more milk per cow is one of the strongest trends we have in the dairy industry,” said Stephenson. “We simply haven’t needed as many cows in total in the U.S. to fulfill all our milk needs because of that productivity increase.”

The report also gives an outlook on the dairy industry this year. Stephenson thinks 2014 will be an even more profitable year -- possibly the most profitable since 2008.

“It will be a good year for dairy farmers,” said Stephenson. “Dairy farmers need to think a bit about, ‘What do I do with the income this year?’”

Milk prices are expected to drop this year. While people in the  U.S. continue to consume more and more dairy, exports could go down slightly because of foreign competition.