Productivity gains fill dairy gap

Productivity gains fill dairy gap

Increasing future milk production won't require more cows but, rather, the ability to use already-available technology to increase cow productivity.

Productivity gains fill dairy gap
THE average American consumes the equivalent of three 8 oz. glasses of milk each day in the form of cheese, yogurt and other dairy products, as well as milk.

The rest of the world pales in comparison, with access to an average of about one 8 oz. glass of milk, which falls below the recommended intake of two glasses per day.

While dairy productivity has doubled over the past 50 years, it's not keeping pace with population growth. Globally, there's 14% less milk available per person today than in 1961.

Current per capita milk production around the world already is failing to meet basic nutritional needs. By 2020, the population won't even have access to one glass of milk a day, on average, globally.

Based on current production trends, nearly half the global population, or 4.5 billion people, won't be able to meet their nutritional needs by 2040.

A recent report, "Enough," by Elanco president Jeff Simmons, points out that solutions exist today to meet the increasing demand without burdening already strained and depleted natural resources.

The report notes that by plugging in the current productivity and cow herd growth rates, an estimated 40 million more dairy cows would be needed by 2050. This would also require significantly more feed and water.

"Given that we're already exceeding our planet's resources, adding more cows simply isn't sustainable," the report warns.

Today, on a global basis, one cow produces an average of 2 gal. of milk each day. In leading milk production areas, it's more than 7 gal. per day.

Organic milk production yields 20% less, on average, than the conventional production of a region.

Simmons said, "Shockingly, we don't need 40 million dairy cows; we just need the cows to produce 4.75 oz. per day each year."

Top-producing dairy countries already produce an average of three to four times this level per year.

On average, one cow produces an estimated 32 glasses of milk each day.

By simply using practices that are already available today or in the pipeline, dairy cows around the world can increase their milk output by a half-glass per cow — or enough to satisfy future global demand.

Examples of such practices include:

* Fresh, clean water;

* Feed optimization;

* Vaccines;

* Disease control;

* Improved housing and comfort;

* Three-times-per-day milking, and

* Long-day lighting.

The report notes that many farmers can't take advantage of current innovations, practices or products, but having the ability to apply today's technology could have a major impact on conserving resources such as feed, farmland and water (Figure).

Top-producing countries such as Germany, Japan, Spain, the U.K. and the U.S. can help fill the dairy gap with modest production gains. Furthermore, top-improving countries such as Belarus, Ecuador, Portugal and the Ukraine can also play a greater role in helping close the gap.

Volume:86 Issue:10

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