“We definitely have high-priced feed,” says Wright, who serves as president of the Southeast Milk dairy cooperative.
Still some optimism
For Ahlem, the producer from California who believes this year was worse than 2009, there is still an element of optimism.
“For the future, I still feel pretty positive,” he says. He bases that optimism on the progress the dairy industry has made in exporting more of its product overseas, as well as industry recognition of animal-welfare issues and its proactive stance on some of those issues, such as tail-docking. (For more information on exports, see the sidebar above.)
In a bad year, there was one bright spot
Dairy exports are on a record-setting pace.
During the first nine months of this year, dairy exports accounted for 13.6 percent of U.S. milk production (on a milk-solids basis). And the final year-end tally should be close to that figure, says Alan Levitt, vice president of communications at the U.S. Dairy Export Council.
The previous record was 13.3 percent in 2011.
This year’s growth was spurred, in part, by healthy increases in the export of whey protein concentrate and cheese.
Levitt says he is hopeful that the growth will be maintained in 2013. Certainly, the companies that export U.S. dairy products abroad have seen the value of positive growth and have become more sophisticated in meeting the needs of foreign buyers.