New Zealand Drought Could Be Boon For Wisconsin Dairy Farmers

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Wisconsin dairy producers are in an unusual position: While still recovering from last year’s drought, they could benefit from a country facing similar conditions.

New Zealand’s situation is a lot like what the Badger State saw last summer. The heat and dry weather have devastated crops and pastures. Some dairy producers have sold off cattle they cannot afford to feed.

New Zealand exports more than 90 percent of its milk and dairy products, so while it deals with its crippled dairy industry, other dairy heavy weights like Wisconsin will fill the void.

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Center for Dairy Profitability director Mark Stephenson says New Zealand’s woes could help the states dairy farmers earn nearly 10 percent more for every 100 gallons of milk they sell.

“By the time we get well into the summer here, I think that producers will see their milk checks looking much stronger then they have over the last few months.”

This financial shot in the arm will not, however, be enough to completely turn around Wisconsin’s recovering dairy industry. Economist Bob Cropp says last summer’s drought has many farmers still paying a lot to keep their herds productive.

“We’re looking for high feed costs [to] at least carry through the new crop year this year, into the next fall. Hopefully we do get the rains. If we don’t, we’re going to have an interesting year this fall, because feed prices would stay very high or even higher than we’ve seen this last year.

New Zealand’s drought is considered its worst in over 70 years. But Mark Stephenson says with enough rain, the country’s dairy industry could recover in a year.

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