This Month > Editorial

By the Numbers

At midnight this past December 31, the books closed on a challenging year for the dairy economy. 2016’s profitability squeeze was felt everywhere, from your farming business to your association’s activity.

But, taking the longer view and many indicators of Jersey’s growing stature within a national dairy cow population whose numbers have been relatively level for two-plus decades, 2016 was a successful year for the American Jersey Cattle Association, National All-Jersey Inc. and Jersey Marketing Service.

Animal Identification. AJCA recorded 111,409 animals last year. 2016 was the fifth consecutive year over 100,000 registrations, an unprecedented level of activity and boosting the three-year rolling average to 117,449. The top five states for registrations were California (40,907), Texas (10,278), Wisconsin (8,954), Oregon (8,352), and Ohio (6,300). Pennsylvania, the host state for the 2017 AJCA-NAJ Annual Meetings, ranked sixth (4,490).

As evidence of how the AJCA’s core business is now structured, 80% of applications were electronically submitted, 87% originated from REAP herds, and 68% of the animals registered were identified by double-matched approved eartags.

JerseyTag sales set a new record, at 431,753 units, a 49% increase in orders over 2015.

Ownership transfers rebounded to 28,536, the second highest total recorded in the most recent decade. The volume-based fee structure for REAP herds implemented in 2014 had clear effect in driving 2016 transfers.

Performance Programs. On December 31, 167,301 cows were enrolled in performance evaluation programs offered by the AJCA, a small drop from the record of 169,913 cows set in 2015. REAP enrollment was 160,558 cows, second-best in program history. The average herd size was 165 cows per herd.

For the fourth time in history, more than 100,000 cows were scored under the linear type traits appraisal program. 2016’s tally of 116,925 cows ranks second only to the record of 119,545 set in 2015.

National All-Jersey Inc. Projected figures indicate that Equity revenue will set a new record at $879,000 invested by 1,042 members.

Jersey Marketing Service. 2016 was the eighth-best year in JMS history, with marketings of $8,683.368. Prices were dampened by low milk prices; the counterweight was strong demand from herds expanding with or converting to Jerseys. Live animals sold at private treaty averaged $1,572.48, those crossing the auction block, $1,745.81.

Production. There’s an historic “first” among the records that follow. For the first time, the official AJCA lactation average for milk crossed the 20,000-pound benchmark.

The new records are 20,139 lbs. milk, 975 lbs. fat, and 737 lbs. protein and 2,508 lbs. Cheddar cheese yield, 305-2x-m.e. basis. These were calculated from 100,175 completed lactations meeting the new registry level minimum of Generation Count 4 and higher.

Taking average 305-day actual production for 2016—17,659 lbs. milk at 4.9% fat and 3.65% protein—the 1,000-pound Jersey cow produced 21,833 lbs. milk on an energy-corrected basis.

Genetic Progress. Arguably, no measure of what happened last year has greater consequence for breed improvement and expansion than the year-end status of Jersey sire development. As shown in Table 1, selection pressure continues to intensify for production, fitness and longevity, and functional type, even as the A.I. organizations increase the number of bulls being marketed to supply strong demand for Jersey genetics.

In the larger picture, 2017 should be a better year for milk producers. Class III futures are over $17.00 per cwt. for the rest of the year. Demand for butter and cheese is encouraging, as is the fact that dairy exports rebounded in November to 15.8% of U.S. milk production.

So we remain optimistic, with good reason. With her concentrated yield of milk’s most valuable components—butterfat and protein—the smaller, more efficient Jersey cow is the solution to the challenges of dairy profitability and sustainability, year after year, across pricing cycles, for herds of all sizes.