With constantly changing needs due to the COVID-19 pandemic, dairy farmers in Saskatchewan and around the world are forced to throw away their milk.
Matthew Flaman, a dairy producer in Vibank, Saskatchewan, said government regulations in western Canada on how restaurants can operate during the pandemic created market challenges.
Due to the market changes brought about by COVID-19, SaskMilk stated that excess milk should be dumped.
“It turns out that it’s kind of a delay in our whole system; our processors don’t really accept more milk,” said Flaman.
“It’s really not their fault; they can’t move the product to the other end of their supply chain.”
He said that what is dumped is a small percentage of what is in the system.
Flaman, who also sits on the board of SaskMilk, said the cost of dumping milk is shared among dairy producers in Western Canada.
He said that in the future farmers will see a price drop, but he was not sure what it would mean exactly.
The market is changing from week to week and even from day to day, he said.
“I don’t think we can figure out where exactly we’re going to end by the end of the month and in the months to come,” said Flaman. “Who knows how long this pandemic will last.”
Farmers tighten production: SaskMilk
Joy Smith, spokesperson for SaskMilk, said that everyone involved in the supply chain was doing their best to adapt to the new market.
“We think that as things stabilize and things get better, it will become a bit of a new normal,” she said. “I hope this means that we will be better able to predict what will happen.”
She said there are ongoing efforts to donate excess milk rather than having to empty it, but processing challenges make this difficult.
SaskMilk is working with other provinces and processors from the Canadian Dairy Commission to resolve treatment issues that Smith says have been successful so far.
A SaskMilk statement released earlier this month says dairy farms cannot reduce the amount of milk they produce overnight. To keep cows comfortable and healthy, they must be milked.
Smith said dairy producers are tightening production, but it needs to be done responsibly so producers can adapt to the market and still meet the supply that is needed.
Who knows how long this pandemic will last.– Matthew Flaman, dairy producer
Flaman said that tightening production can be done in different ways and that each farm will find its own way.
He said that some end-of-life dairy cows could be brought to the beef markets a little earlier than expected. Other cows will be “dried up” and will not be milked sooner than expected.
Some farms, he said, may also consider reducing milk production for each cow through their diet.
“We do not know exactly how far we have to go,” he said.
“But the milk boards have currently placed restrictions on farmers and I hope this will be enough to eliminate this dumping of raw milk.”