Volume doing well but compositional quality slipping Milk output continues to defy foot and mouth UK dairy processors are still waiting for the anticipated downward effect of the foot & mouth crisis on milk production. The disease is still active and, at the latest count, nearly 5.5% of the national dairy herd has been culled since February. Despite this, UK milk output has remained above year- earlier levels for four out of the last five months. For August, Intervention Board provisional figures indicate that output was up yet again by 0.7%. Since the beginning of the current milk quota year in April, output has risen cumulatively by 1.3% over the same five-month period last year. Many experts in the industry still expect supplies to dip below last year's levels during the winter, but so far dairy farmers have reacted to the crisis by stepping up output on unaffected farms. While output may be up on last year, however, it should be noted that output from April to August this year was still 2.4% less than in the same period of 1999. While volume output may be doing well, the latest monthly figures show that milk composition has tended to slip downwards this year. The average butterfat or cream content of the national supply, which has been on a rising trend for many years, has fallen from January to August to 3.96% compared with 3.98% last year and 3.99% in 1999. Similarly, the average milk protein content is down slightly to 3.24% compared with 3.25% in each of the past two years. {{FRESH PRODUCE }}