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A positive outlook for marketing the dairy industry in the 21st century

Hugh Chester-Jones

Published in Dairy Star May 06, 2006

Amidst the ever present challenges of dairying today from consumer scrutiny, market price fluctuations, costs of production, special interest agendas and environmental issues, an overall positive perspective was portrayed at the recent Professional Dairy Heifer Growers Association 10th annual conference held in Visalia, California, March 22-24. Richard Cotta, Senior Vice President of California Dairies, Inc., Los Banos, gave the keynote address on Marketing the Dairy Industry in the 21st Century. To set the stage, a review of some past dairy history was shown (Table 1).

Table 1. 55 years of dairying (adapted from Cotta, 2006)
  1949 2004
Total farms 23 million 800,000
Total dairies 3.65 million 67,000
Dairy cows (mil.) 23 9
Cows/farm 6 110
Milk/cow (lb.) 5,000 19,000+
U.S. total milk (bil. lb.) 118 171
Farm milk price (cwt) $3.50 $15.45
Price support (cwt) $3.00 $9.90
Replacement price $184 $1,581
Labor/cow/year (hr.) 120 40–45
Retail price/gal. $0.78 $3.16
Minutes work to buy 1 gal. milk 12 10

The demographics of milk production are well known and the economics of scale have been applied in many regions of the country. The question was posed on how we can attain consumer trust and confidence when marketing the dairy industry? Four major areas of concern were recognized as challenges which are again familiar but the emphasis was to acknowledge these in a proactive way for the industry's benefit:

Table 2. World demographics, 2004 (adapted from Cotta, 2006)
  Million/people % population % milk production
North America 328 5.0 14
South America 518 7.9 11
Europe 729 11.1 32
Asia 2,910 44.4 6.2
  Japan 127    
  China 1,306
  Korea 70    
  India 1,080 16.5 18.0
Africa 887 13.5 .5
USSR 143 2.1 11
Oceania 33 .5 5.0

In Cotta's published proceedings, he states, “Overall I see a great deal of opportunity for the dairy industry in the twenty-first century. Issues and solutions to those problems will pose some enormous challenges for the industry, but the opportunities are limitless. The sky is the limit when it comes to technological changes, innovation and marketing possibilities.”

The question is: how can we best address the four major areas outlined above here in the Midwest to help attain the trust and confidence of our consumers?

To request a copy of Richard Cotta's complete paper, contact Hugh Chester-Jones via e-mail ( or phone (507-837-5618).

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