The production of cow, sheep and goat milk accounted for 19.7% of the value generated by the entire livestock sector and the final value of the agricultural sector (PFA). Approximately 75% of the national milk production corresponds to the production of cow’s milk, 14% to the production of sheep’s milk and 12% to the production of goat’s milk. In Spain, in addition to these three productions there is a minority production of buffalo milk, which in other countries in Asia and even in Italy is widespread.

Cow milk and milk products

At the end of the year there were 854,726 milking cows in Spain. Likewise, the census of dairy heifers at the end of 2014 amounted to 287,436 heads. Production of cow’s milk rose to 6.539 million tonnes, while deliveries in the 2013/2014 season exceeded 6.34 million tonnes adjusted for fat. Production of ewes’ milk collected on farms (not including the equivalent of cheese) amounted to 396,000 tonnes and goat milk production exceeded 340,000 tonnes, well below both volumes of the year preceding. The number of heads per farm in Spain is very irregular. There are regions such as the Valencian Community that has an average of 202 cows per farm and others like Extremadura with only 14. Spanish production accounts for 4.25% of European production and dairy consumption in Spain is well above production . Galicia is by far the region with the largest census of beef cattle (42% of the total in 2014), followed by Castilla y León (11%), Asturias (8.9%), Catalonia (8.8% %), Cantabria (6.5%), and Andalusia (6.5%). What differentiates Spain from other countries within the EU is its significant quota deficit in relation to domestic consumption. This deficit forces large quantities every year. For its part, in the European Union (EU) the bulk of dairy production comes from the cow. The yields obtained in European dairy farms are very high, standing at 160 million liters. In the last decade Community production has increased thanks to an improvement in yields per holding. The countries with the greatest weight in the sector were Germany (19% of the total in 2014), France (15%) and Italy (9%). In recent years, milk production costs have been rising and livestock producers’ margins have narrowed. Spain is the seventh largest producer of cow’s milk in the European Union, after Germany, France, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Italy And Poland. In addition to milk production, in 2014 the EU also produced 2.22 million tonnes of butter and 9.6 million tonnes of cheese. Germany with 2.2 million tonnes, was the country with the highest production of cheese in 2014, followed by France with 1.9 million tonnes. Globally, the production of cow’s milk rose in 2014 to 665 million tons. In addition to the EU, other countries with large milk production are the United States and New Zealand.

Milk of sheep and goat

During the year 2014 the production of sheep and goat milk represented around 25% of the value of the national dairy production, which represents a total of 797 million euros. It also represents around 4% of the PFG and 1.5% of the PFA. Spanish production of ewes’ milk collected on farms (not including cheese equivalent) increased as a result of high prices and the shortage of goat’s milk in the European Union. In 2013, the downsizing of farms to meet demand raised total production to over 1 million liters. However in 2014 there was a considerable decline and production was below 750,000 tons, of which 396,000 correspond to sheep’s milk and 340,000 to goat’s milk. In goat’s milk, Andalusia was the region with the highest production (about 50%). There are also important productions in the Canaries (16% of the total production), Castilla-La Mancha (11%) and Murcia (8%). On the other hand, in sheep milk emphasized Castilla y León, followed by Castilla-La Mancha. Spain produces approximately 22% of EU goat’s milk and 17% of sheep’s milk. The sheep and goat milk sector still relies heavily on foreign sales to balance its balance sheet. Virtually 10% of the sheep’s milk goes to the production of artisanal cheeses in the own farms and the remaining 90% goes to the industry. Also, goat’s milk is destined in a small percentage to the production of artisanal cheeses, although more than 80% of the goat’s milk goes to the dairies.

Dairy products

From time immemorial man has sought formulas to take advantage of and preserve milk better. The oldest ones are the transformation of milk into cheeses, yogurts or curds, but there are currently industrial techniques based on the application of chemical or physical procedures to delay the onset of microorganisms activity in liquid milk. To make a kilo of cow’s cheese, 9-10 liters of milk are needed, while 8-9 kilos of goat’s milk and only 5-6 of sheep’s milk are needed. In Spain, cheese production in 2014 increased to almost 150,000 tonnes, well above production in 2013. Butter is obtained by beating the cream and removing some of the water still contained in the emulsion. This milk product has a fat content of about 80%, but is usually between 15 and 18% water and in many countries is used for frying and cooking. Powdered milk and butter productions were boosted by the good performance of world markets. Other products such as ice creams, dairy desserts, milk shakes, custards, custards, prepared and enriched milks, etc. are also obtained from milk. Finally, the bakery and pastry industry uses milk, buttermilk, cream and butter to make cookies, buns, chocolates and numerous milk products.

About the author

Montse Gonzalez