Glut of Heifers Enter Milk-Flooded Dairy Industry

Semen-sorting technology bolsters herds, depressing already depressed prices
By Polly Davis Doig,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 29, 2009 11:08 AM CDT
In this March 11, 2009 file photo, a line of Holstein dairy cows feed through a fence at a farm outside Jerome, Idaho.   (AP Photo/Charlie Litchfield, FILE)
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(Newser) – Times are tough everywhere, but dairy farming, never the industry of millionaires, is reeling from a double-whammy of its own making. Three years ago, new semen-sorting technology allowed farmers to ensure nine out of 10 calves born were female (bull calves largely end up in McDonald's wrappers and the like). Now, that glut of heifer calves is finally entering milk production—and running smack dab into an existing milk glut that's driven prices down about 40% since last July.

In a bid to cut supply and rally prices, an industry group has been paying farmers to cull cows—but the 230,000 head slaughtered since January are expected to be replaced over the next two years by the influx of heifers resulting from semen sorting, notes the New York Times. “This is a really exciting thing,” said one exec at a semen-sorting company. “And very difficult times. And you combine the two and realize it didn’t work as well as we hoped.”