Alberta dairies are seeing a large fluctuation in demand for milk that is causing significant issues for producers.
Tom Koostra, board chair of Alberta Milk and a Ponoka County dairy producer, explained that all of the restrictions in place because of COVID-19 has meant changes to how much is being sold.
“The demand for dairy has been erratic during COVID-19. With the closure of non-essential businesses, there has been a decline in demand,” he said in an email interview.
“But, we are not alone as many in the agriculture sector are impacted whether it be livestock or fruit and vegetables. We have also all been hit by the disruption in supply chains and at processing plants.”
Recent reports from other provinces and the U.S. have shown producers dumping thousands of litres of milk that can’t be sold. Koostra admits that is one thing that Alberta has done its best to avoid, but it is happening in certain cases.
“This is a global issue facing all dairy farms and is one that local farms unfortunately have to face as well,” he said.
“Our farms have done an excellent job of better aligning supply with demand now, but these are really unprecedented times for the industry.”
He added that producers have also been working to get some of that milk distributed to local food banks.
There was a reduction to the April milk quota by the organization to better respond to the changing market, Koostra said. Those changes include a huge number of restaurant closures, far lower demand from caterers and food outlets that remain open as well as a decrease in demand from industrial-sized commercial operations.
Koostra also added that producers are continuing to make changes that reflect the new reality because of the virus restrictions.
“Our farms are operating differently now to help stop the spread,” he said.
”Generally, only essential service providers are welcomed on farms now, like veterinarians or feed distributors. If issues can be solved using video or a phone call, farmers are using other means to ensure their herd is well taken care of. Extra cleaning is also a priority for farms.”