April 23, 2024

Taylor Daily Press

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Breaking the trend: The number of dairy farmers is declining sharply

Breaking the trend: The number of dairy farmers is declining sharply

With 3.08 billion liters of milk, Flemish dairy farming performed slightly better in 2023 than in 2022 when production reached 3.07 billion liters of milk. This production was achieved by 3,557 dairy farms, 4 percent fewer than in 2022 (3,687). This apparent contradiction can be explained by the increase in production in existing companies. The number of liters produced per operation increased by 3 percent.

“This was only possible thanks to the excellent management on dairy farms, which is also reflected in the results of MCC research on milk quality and composition,” Tom Van Nispen, head of the Milk Control Center in Flanders, said during the presentation. MCC 2023 Annual Report at the General Membership Meeting last week.

MCC monitors milk quality on behalf of the dairy chain. It did this last year using more than two million milk samples. This shows that the percentage of births in which antibiotic residues were detected decreased slightly to 0.016 percent. On the other hand, the number of coliforms in milk (hygiene index) increased by 30 percent compared to 2022 to 15.8 per ml. The average germ count (an indicator of the number of bacteria) in milk rose slightly to an average of 9,700 per ml.

Fewer quality breeders than last year

Due to the significant increase in the average coliform count, the number of quality MCC breeders has decreased in the past year. This certificate is issued to dairy farmers who achieve the highest quality standards in terms of bacterial count (<10,000/ml), coliform count (<10/ml) and somatic cell count (<150,000/ml). In 2023, 47 dairy farmers were able to consistently meet these stringent quality standards, 44 fewer dairy farmers than last year.

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According to Benedikt Sass, this is not a sign of deteriorating business operations. “This may have to do with a very wet year, which means the bacteriological pressure is higher than normal.” The manager also points to the average cell count (an indicator of udder health), which stands at 194,300 cells per ml, which is below 200,000 cells per ml for the fifth year in a row, making the Flemish dairy company one of the best in Europe. “These statistics show that 98 percent of Flemish dairy farms meet the most stringent quality standards.”