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Texas milk production booming, thanks to many

By Darren Turley
Executive Director

A reporter called recently asking about the status of the Panhandle dairy industry in the almost three years since Winter Storm Goliath, and whether dairies were prepared for another extreme winter.

Recall that the storm in late December 2015 hit a region that was home to about one-third of the state’s dairy cows. It killed an estimated 15,000 livestock in addition to taking an emotional toll on local dairy farmers.

First of all, I stated that we hope to never see another Goliath-type event in our lifetime. It is not really possible to prepare for an event of that magnitude. We then discussed milk production in the region – both before and since the storm – and I must admit that, though I know how much we have grown in statewide milk production in the last few years, I was taken aback by how much milk production has grown in Texas since Goliath.

In January 2015 – about a year before the storm – Texas produced 895 million pounds of milk. Following the storm, 831 million pounds of milk were produced in January 2016, with some of the impacted counties down as much as 19 percent from the previous January. By comparison, 994 million pounds were logged in January 2017 and 1 billion pounds in January 2018. This is an incredible increase in production. Today, production has increased about 25 percent from the January 2016 production level.

With that production comes a big ask on the part of the transportation and marketing side of the industry.

When I was a dairy farmer, I don’t know that I ever understood the magnitude of work that cooperative staff undertake to market and move additional milk produced every day. Finding a home for additional milk that turns a profit is always a struggle. The success of our state’s dairy farmers is not just in their hands, but also in the hands of all of the people involved in getting your milk to the market.

We should all respect all the effort that goes into moving and marketing our product – a growth in production means more truck loads, more truck drivers, more contracts, more sampling, more processing, etc.

Because Texas dairy farmers are producing much more milk than before, we are now the nation’s fifth largest dairy state. That won’t last long. While dairies in other parts of the country are faltering, Texas milk production will continue to grow.

It won’t be long before Texas likely will become the fourth largest dairy producing state, thanks not just to farmers and their herds, but to everyone in our industry who is working hard to help us achieve this milestone.

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