While winter temperatures do make some aspects of production difficult, farmers and experts agree that the recent bite of cold is not anticipated to impact dairy production or milk prices.
“As far as winter production, I’m not sure that there are huge drops in production during the winter — there might be some trend, but I’m not sure if we even really know,” Katherine Lee, senior educator in dairy agriculture for the Michigan State University Extension in Lake City said.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, January and February can be the least productive months for dairy production nationwide, but on average, it varies between less than a percentage point.
Because of this, Lee does not anticipate any change in milk prices because of the colder weather.
“There are a huge supply of dairy products worldwide, and this little blip in the weather isn’t going to have any impact on the supply of milk that’s available,” Lee said. “At least not for the foreseeable future.”
While production and prices are to remain stable, the cold does have an effect on the operation of dairy farms and their animals.
“January and February can be pretty cold,” said Amy Martin, co-owner of Gingrich Meadows. “Even February has been really cold these last couple of years, and that’s when you’re going to take your bigger hit. The longer it’s cold, the more milk production that you lose.”
Martin said the cold weather does shed a few pounds of milk off every cow, leading to a slight drop in production.
The reason: In winter conditions, cows need more feed to maintain body temperature, but if they’re able to get what they need, then there will be no significant interruption in dairy production.
“It’s the same thing when you hear people being reminded to feed their pets more this time of year because there’s a higher demand for energy — it’s the same for cattle,” Lee said. “They’re in the cold, and as long as they’re protected from the wind and they have adequate feed and access to water, they’re okay.”
For Martin and Gingrich Meadows, there have been no extraordinary circumstances that have interrupted food or water supplies, and in fact, Martin and other farmers expect prices to drop over the next few months.
Prices are set in part by the federal government and have fallen for decades, placing pressure on smaller dairy farms to innovate ways to cut costs and generate revenue.