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## Global Milk Price Conversion

Milk prices published in the media can be confusing and misleading to farmers, the dairy industry and the public. The basis of measurement and reporting is very different in many countries, not to mention taking currency into account.

Most often, the price of milk is presented as a value per volume or weight of milk. For example: cents per liter (cpl); dollars per hundredweight ($/cwt); or EUR per 100 kilograms. The main problem with these price bases is that in reality milk is usually paid for its fat, protein and other solids components – very few dairy processors pay for water! You need to know the composition of the milk, and this composition varies from farm to farm and country to country. There is no single standard formula for comparing local and international prices. Here are some factors to consider when making comparisons.

**Currency: **This is an obvious problem, but one must consider the choice between: the current daily rate; annual average conversion rate; weighted average conversion rate. In the latter case, the currency exchange rate should be weighed against the timing of payments to farmers.

**Fat and protein composition:**It is normal for farmers to be paid based on the fat and protein composition of milk. This can have a big impact on the price of milk when expressed in cpl. Thus, for example, the milk price of a sweater cow with high milk components can be more than 50% higher than that of a freesia/holstein cow.

The typical composition of cow’s milk among the world’s largest exporters of dairy products is: Europe – 4.2% fat, 3.4% protein; US 3.7% fat, 3.0% protein; New Zealand – 4.7% fat, 3.7% protein; Australia 4.1% fat, 3.3% protein.

To add to the confusion, USDA reported milk prices are based on $/cwt fat content of 3.5% and Eurostat milk prices are based on 3.7% fat content.

There are no standards for milk price in Australia and New Zealand, and the safest measure of local price is when it is expressed as $/kg milk solids ($/kg MS). Milk solids are defined as the sum of fat and protein measurements in milk.

**Measuring mass or volume:** In addition to the fat and protein composition of the milk, you also need to know whether the measurement results are expressed as mass (e.g. kg / kg) or mass / volume (e.g. kg / liter). The typical density of milk is 1.03 grams/liter, so an error here can affect the milk price calculation by 3%.

**Real or crude protein: **Crude protein is an estimate of milk protein composition based on nitrogen measurements (usually with the Kjeldahl nitrogen test). The milk protein content is calculated based on the international standard factor nitrogen x 6.38.

True protein is an estimate of actual milk protein based on a calibrated infrared measurement. The difference between crude and true protein is equal to what is called “non-protein nitrogen” (NPN).

Actual protein measurement is estimated to be 0.1-0.2% lower than crude protein. This can affect the milk price calculation by up to 5%.

In the US and Australia, milk protein content is usually reported as true protein, while crude protein is more commonly used in the EU and New Zealand.

**Calculation example: **Here is an example of how you can convert the reported milk price from one country to another, taking into account the above factors.

A US farmer receives US$11.50 per cwt for milk containing 3.7% fat and 3.0% true protein.

A farmer in New Zealand wants to know what this equates to in $NZ/kg MS if milk solids are equal to fat and crude protein. Assuming an exchange rate of $1.00 = $0.70 and crude protein = true protein + 0.15%, the calculation is:

$11.50/cwt = $16.43/cwt

Milk composition = 3.7% fat + (3.0 + 0.15)% crude protein = 6.85% milk solids mass / mass

1 cwt of milk / 220.4 = 45.4 kilograms

NZ$16.43 / cwt / 45.4 / 0.0685 = NZ$5.28 / kg MS CP (Crude Protein)

For the Australian farmer, there is no need to adjust for crude protein – milk solids = %3.7 + 3.0% = 6.7%. Assuming the exchange rate is 1.00 USD = 0.87 USD:

$11.50/cwt = AU$13.22/cwt

AU$13.22/cwt/45.4/0.065 = AU$4.35/kg MS TP (True Protein)

A UK farmer wants to know what it is in pence per liter for their typical milk composition of 4.2% fat and 3.4% crude protein (~3.25% true protein). This question is a bit more difficult because we don’t know the value of the individual fat and protein components. The best we can do is assume that the milk solids value is the same. This gives a fairly close approximation if the ratio of fat to protein is similar in both cases. So assuming: $1.00 US = 63 British pence

US$11.50/cwt = 724.5p/cwt (£7.25/cwt)

724.5 pence / cwt / 45.4 = 16.0 pence / kilogram

16.0 pence / kilogram x 1.03 = 16.4 pence / liter

However, this is the price of 3.7% fat and 3.0% real protein. Use the relative ratio of whole milk solids to estimate pricing for a European farmer:

16.4 pence / liter x (4.2 + 3.25) / (3.7 + 3.0) = 18.2 pence per liter.

On the European continent, it is thought in euros / per 100 kg of milk. We’ll take a shortcut here and convert pence per liter to euros / 100kg, assuming the composition of a UK farmer’s milk is the same. With an exchange rate of 1.00 euro = 92 British pence:

18.2 pence per liter = 19.8 euros / 100 liters

19.8 euros / 100 liters / 1.03 = 19.2 euros / 100 kg

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