Thursday, June 5, 2014

A lot of Milk Per Cow and Whatcom Dairy Notes

The above diagram applies to a national trend and projected trend for dairy production that in part is reflective of dairy in Whatcom County, my home county. The most impressive part of the chart is the projection that the production per cow will continue the increase trend that has been seen over the past two decades.

Whatcom County is a big dairy county. The mild climate and tradition has led to the County being the biggest dairy county in Washington State. Unlike the chart above, the number of cows in Whatcom has not appreciably declined. However, it should be noted the number of dairy farms has declined.

Whatcom County cows have always been large producers relative to the average production. Production per cow has increased significantly over the past few years in part because productive areas such as Whatcom County and southern Wisconsin have remained in dairy while less productive areas have declined.

Whatcom County diary does have challenges. Feed for larger dairy herds on fewer farms requires bringing feed in from elsewhere particularly during cold wet springs/summers. The cold wet weather also poses challenges for dealing with the waste stream from the other things dairy cows produce and some recent trends indicate that a few farms might be having a bit of trouble with waste disposal on fields not impacting water quality in streams, rivers and shell fish areas downstream. Indeed there has been some dairy expansion in other parts of the state in the Yakima valley and Walla Walla valley where feed is easier to obtain and the climate much drier. There is a down side of summer heat and winter cold. Some of the very large dairies in the Yakima valley have also had waste and air quality challenges, so the mass exodus of dairy to the east side of the state from Whatcom County has not fully developed as was initially threatened. 

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