June 26, 2023 at 1:29 p.m.
Dealing with the spring flush
“You can let it get to you, or you can just focus on what you have control over,” Kieffer said. “There’s not a lot we can do right now. It’s the spring flush of milk, and it kind of happened all at once. You have no control over what the price is or if the processing plant can get your milk processed that day. You just try and do what you can.”
Foremost Farms dairy cooperative – a supplier of cheese, dairy products, and ingredients to national and international markets – is one processor dealing with an overabundance of milk.
“Foremost Farms has actually produced more product across our plant network than projected in our annual plan for the first five months of 2023,” said Greg Schlafer, president and CEO of Foremost Farms. “The challenge is that the Upper Midwest milkshed is over supplied with milk, and that has created a challenge of how to manage the excess milk across the entire dairy manufacturing industry.”
Foremost Farms is owned by approximately 1,000 dairy farmers in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin.
“The amount of dumped milk at Foremost Farms is very small, far less than even 1% of the 6 billion pounds we process annually,” Schlafer said. “But of course, we believe any dumped milk is too much.”
Schlafer said the Foremost Farms team has been going above and beyond for weeks to find a market for its member-owners’ milk.
“We are fortunate that we have true partnerships with many of our customers who continue to place orders, so we have been able to keep production going above plan and keep the supply moving,” he said.
Dairy Farmers of America, a national, farmer-owned dairy cooperative serving nearly 11,000 family farm-owners, has also struggled with an excess amount of milk. DFA manufactures a variety of dairy products, including fluid milk, cheese, butter, ice cream, dairy ingredients and more.
According to a statement from DFA, the entire dairy industry in Wisconsin has recently experienced challenging marketing dynamics. Supply is outpacing demand, resulting in more milk than available processing capacity, which has put pressure on milk prices for farmers and in some cases led to milk being disposed.
DFA said they are working with their internal plant network and external customers to ensure their farmer-owners’ milk is handled efficiently and are exhausting all possible avenues to find a home for the milk. DFA said it will continue to seek opportunities in the region and across the U.S. to provide a stable milk market for its farmer owners.
“In the last 10 years or so, dairy farmers and ag people have put so much emphasis, time and money into technology and trying to do the best we can on our farms by maximizing production,” Kieffer said. “Farms have really thrived and exceeded their goals. But one thing we’ve forgotten about is processing. Processing plants are getting old. They break down. There’s more mergers and shutdowns. It’s become a major problem.”
Schlafer is optimistic that milk supply and demand will even out soon.
“As we come out of spring flush, we expect a little tighter milk supply in the summer and for the balance of the year which will be helpful for the dairy industry,” Schlafer said.