The start of spring this week in New Zealand marks the start of the peak milk season which will see, at its peak, will see a Fonterra tanker collect milk from a farm every nine seconds.

It is an impressive statistic highlighting what is expected to be a bumper peak to the milk production cycle, which has the potential to reach more than 90 million litres collected in a single day – enough to fill 36 Olympic-sized swimming pools.

Peak refers to the period when New Zealand’s annual dairy production reaches its highest level due to ideal conditions for grass growth.

Fonterra Managing Director of Global Operations Robert Spurway says the Co-operative is well placed to manage the peak this year.

“During peak, our aim is to collect and process all milk, with a product mix that maximises the value of our milk, delivers the greatest returns for our shareholders and meets the needs of our consumers and customers worldwide.

“To help us achieve this, the Co-operative has invested in more than 50 capital and enhancement projects around the country aimed at optimising collection, processing, transport and manufacturing.”

Spurway noted that it’s important to remember that the milk peak is predominately driven by the weather conditions, which can vary widely from year to year, so we need to be prudent in our management.

“Last season, more than 41% of Fonterra’s total milk production was collected during the peak period. We balance the need to collect and process as much milk as possible, while avoiding plants standing idle at other times of the year.”

While it is Fonterra’s aim to maximise the value of its farmers’ milk, disposal of by-product in years where peak volumes are high is a reality. Milk by-products, which have a lower commercial value, are typically what are disposed to free up capacity for products in high demand.

Whenever disposal is required, Fonterra’s preference is for the by-product to be used as feed for calf rearers and piggeries. Excess by-product that cannot be used as feed is predominately irrigated to land in-line with resource consents to mitigate any environmental impact.