California Drought 2014: Livestock, Dairy, and Poultry Sectors
Livestock and livestock products play an important role in California agriculture, contributing to just over a quarter of the value of agricultural production in the State. Cash receipts for livestock products totaled $12.1 billion in 2012, or just over 7 percent of total U.S. livestock cash receipts. This value consists mostly of dairy, cattle and calf, chicken, and egg production (fig. 1).
- California leads the nation in dairy production, producing 21 percent of the Nation’s milk. The State is also the leading producer of butter and nonfat dry milk and is second to Wisconsin in cheese production.
- Milk production in California through July 2014 is 3 percent above year-earlier levels (fig. 2). This year, U.S. production, excluding California, is up 1 percent from the same period in 2013. Although dairies face higher feed costs than last year, milk prices are near record highs. Total U.S. milk production is forecast to increase over 2 percent this year.
- California ranks first in dairy cow inventory and fourth in total U.S. cattle inventory (table 1). California’s 5.3 million head of cattle equal 6 percent of all U.S. cattle supplies and 8 percent of U.S. calves. As of early-September 2014, 83 percent of cattle in California were located in areas with exceptional drought (category D4).
- Dairy production is concentrated in a few areas, and the San Joaquin Valley—the State leader in dairy production—is impacted in particular by the drought. Eight counties make up the San Joaquin Valley and account for 87 percent of the State’s dairy cow inventory and 76 percent of its dairies (table 2).
- The majority of dairy cows in California and the West are raised in dry lots and fed grain, including alfalfa hay, rather than grazing on pasture. California is the leading State for alfalfa farming, accounting for nearly 11 percent of total U.S. production in 2013. Most alfalfa fields are irrigated and many are located in the Central Valley.
- Production of alfalfa is forecast to increase 6 percent in California this year and 11 percent nationally. U.S. production declined 20 percent after the 2012 drought in the Southwest, but extensive use of irrigation is expected to prevent a similar decline in California production.
- Despite a higher production forecast, alfalfa prices have edged higher this year in California. Prices received by farmers averaged $247/ton through August 2014, 19 percent higher than the same period last year. The U.S. average of prices received has declined this year, averaging $206/ton through August.
Table 1. California livestock, dairy, and poultry products, production value, 2012
|Commodity||U.S. rank 1/|
|CA share of U.S. production|
|Cash reciepts /2|
|Cattle and calves
|Hogs and pigs 3/
|Milk and cream
|Wool and mohair
|Other livestock and poultry 3/
||(Number of eggs)
|Livestock, dairy, and apiary total cash receipts
1/ Based on quantity produced for crops and on quantity marketed for livestock and poultry products.
2/ Based on value of quantity marketed for livestock, and value of quantity produced for poultry products.
3/ Includes sheep and lambs.
Source: USDA, National Agricultural Statistics Service, Pacific Region Office-California, California Agricultural Statistics, 2012.
Table 2. California milk cows, dairies, and cows per dairy by county, 2012
|County||Number||Percent of State total||Number of dairies||Average number of |
cows per dairy
|San Joaquin Valley total
Sources: USDA, National Agricultural Statistics Service, Pacific Region Office-California, California Agricultural Statistics, 2012; California Department of Food and Agriculture, Milk and Dairy Foods Safety.
- Imports of livestock products account for relatively small shares of U.S. domestic disappearance and, therefore, typically play a minor role in augmenting domestic supplies.
- For dairy, live cattle, and turkeys, commodities for which California accounts for significant shares of U.S. production, imports accounted for small shares of domestic disappearance in 2013: 2-3 percent for milk, 5 percent for live cattle, and nil for turkey.
- Imports do account for a large share of U.S. lamb and mutton disappearance and, since California is a minor producer, any losses should not have significant market impacts.
Table 3. Livestock product imports as a share of domestic disappearance, 2013
|Import share of disappearance|
|Lamb and mutton
|Milk (m.e. milk fat basis)
|Milk (m.e. skim-solids basis)
|Thousands of animals
|Cattle (total disappearance)
Source: USDA, World Agricultural Statistics Board, World Agricultural Supply Supply and Demand Estimates, 2014.