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The Bulls are Back in Charge on LaSalle Street

July through December Class III and a smattering of Class IV futures notched life-of-contract highs this week. While most Class III contracts ultimately settled a little lower than they did last Friday, Class IV futures added roughly 30ȼ.

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After notching a new spring high last Friday, butter values plunged early this week. The Tuesday morning selloff was steep but ultimately short-lived. By Thursday, butter buyers were once again bidding with enthusiasm.

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The markets are screaming at dairy producers to make more milk, but there are formidable barriers to expansion. Producers who have relied on extra heifers from their neighbors or the latest dispersal auction find they are increasingly scarce and expensive.

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The bulls ran wild in Chicago this week. For both Class III and Class IV milk, June through December futures notched life-of-contract highs. Dairy producers are cashing a pitiful April milk check but looking forward to much more prosperous times ahead.

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Milk should be plentiful and cheap, but this is not a typical year for the dairy industry. USDA reports processors bought spot milk in the Midwest at prices ranging from $1.50 under to 50ȼ over Class III. Spring premiums are atypical, and the midpoint of the range is unusually high for this time of year.

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Folks from across the dairy industry gathered this week in Chicago for the annual meeting of the American Dairy Products Institute. This event provides a setting for traders and other stakeholders to chew over market information and revise expectations for the months ahead. While every commodity gained ground at the CME this week, it remains clear that individual products each are confronting their own set of challenges, and that the markets remain shrouded in uncertainty from both supply and demand.

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The dairy markets swung wildly back and forth this week as they digested a slew of data and headlines. Monday’s Milk Production report showed that milk output declined for a ninth straight month and while milk output was already slipping in the Southwest before avian influenza began to impact dairy herds there this spring, it seems likely that the illness exacerbated the decline.

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Class III futures came roaring back this week, led by a sizable rally in the cheese markets. USDA’s Dairy Market News reports that domestic cheese demand is perking up. Grocery shoppers have embraced the advent of grilling season with shopping carts full of ground beef and all the fixings for cheeseburgers.

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The dairy markets got off to a strong start this week, led by a historic move in butter. CME spot butter traded thrice at $2.97 per pound on Monday, marking the highest spring butter price on record.

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U.S. dairy exports have struggled for the past year as weak global demand and uncompetitive prices caused exports to trail prior year levels for a full year. But February data suggests that the tides may be changing.

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On Monday, the USDA announced that it had identified the mystery disease affecting dairy cattle in Kansas and Texas as Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI). According to the agency, the virus has likely been spread by wild birds that had contact with affected farms. While any situation that negatively impacts herd health is a concern, it is encouraging to know that the virus is not transmitted between cattle and there is currently no evidence that the disease will spread to humans.

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