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Dairy Producers Should be Brimming With Holiday Spirit

Pass the egg nog, please. USDA announced the highest Class III price in five years. That’s a lot of Christmas cheer heading for dairy producers’ mailboxes. The butter market, however, is suffering a holiday hangover.

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The gains were driven by impressive improvements in milk production per cow. Higher prices and mild weather have boosted milk output.

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Spot Cheddar is still at a rather lofty perch and spot barrels have the highest value in more than five years. The markets are doing their job.

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CME spot Cheddar barrels reached a five-year high, then the bids dried up.

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The Cheddar market was already red hot, but barrels pushed the mercury even higher this week.

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Fresh cheese is tight, and the markets seem to have someone – or several someones – over a barrel. High prices are working to trim demand at the margins, boost production, and attract imports.

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Judgment is further clouded by stupefying volatility and a sense of déjà vu. Sky-high cheese prices are simply difficult to sustain.

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The bulls are still bruised after getting walloped in mid-September, when spot cheese staged an invigorating climb followed by a dramatic collapse.

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The fundamentals of the milk powder market seem particularly healthy, and the bulls are roaming free.

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After much volatility, the boundaries are becoming clearer. The spread between blocks and barrels narrowed, adding another layer of uncertainty to the already complex cheese markets.

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After rocketing higher last week, CME spot Cheddar blocks continued to soar. But, the cheese markets are likely to remain volatile.

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