Milk and milk product statistics

From Statistics Explained

Data from September 2013. Most recent data: Further Eurostat information, Main tables and Database.

This article is part of a set of statistical articles based on the Eurostat publication Agriculture, forestry and fishery statistics pocketbook. It presents information and statistics on milk and milk products in the European Union (EU).

Figure 1: Production and use of milk, EU-28, 2011 (1)
(million tonnes) - Source: Eurostat (apro_mk_pobta) and (apro_mk_farm)
Table 1: Production of cows' milk on farms, 2010 and 2011 - Source: Eurostat (apro_mk_farm) and (apro_mk_lscatl)
Table 2: Regional production of cows' milk on farms, by apparent yield, 2011 - Source: Eurostat (agr_r_milkpr) and (agr_r_animal)
Table 3: Regional production of cows' milk on farms, by level of production, 2011 - Source: Eurostat (agr_r_milkpr) and (agr_r_animal)
Table 4: Collection of milk by dairies, 2012
(1 000 tonnes) - Source: Eurostat (apro_mk_pobta)
Figure 2: Collection of cows' milk by dairies, 2012 (1)
(% share of EU-28 total, based on tonnes) - Source: Eurostat (apro_mk_pobta)
Table 5: Utilisation of milk by dairies, EU-28, 2011
(million tonnes) - Source: Eurostat (apro_mk_pobta)
Figure 3: Utilisation of whole milk, EU-28, 2012 (1)
(%) - Source: Eurostat (apro_mk_pobta)
Table 6: Dairy products obtained from milk, 2012
(1 000 tonnes) - Source: Eurostat (apro_mk_pobta)

Main statistical findings

Milk production

Farms across the EU-28 produced an estimated 157.0 million tonnes of milk in 2011, of which an estimated 151.9 million tonnes (or 96.7 %) was cows’ milk, the rest being milk from ewes, goats and buffalos. The vast majority (90.5 % in 2011) of the milk produced on farms was delivered to dairies, the rest being used on the farm — see Figure 1 for a wider picture of the production and use of milk. The figures presented in this article exclude information for Malta (which is generally confidential).

The production of cows’ milk on farms in the EU-28 increased almost 2.0 million tonnes between 2010 and 2011. The EU-28’s dairy herd of 23.0 million cows in 2011 had an estimated average yield of 6 590 kg per head (see Table 1). The long-term trend of rising milk production from fewer dairy cows, as a result of rising yields, was confirmed by the latest figures available for 2011, as milk yields in the EU-28 rose by 2.5 %, while the number of dairy cows fell by 1.1 %.

Average yields of milk per cow varied considerably between EU Member States in 2011. The apparent yield was highest — between 8 000 kg and 8 500 kg per cow per year — in Spain, Finland, Sweden and Denmark. By contrast, the apparent yield was relatively low — between 3 500 kg and 3 600 kg per head — in Romania, Bulgaria and Croatia, where milk production was typically less specialised.

The diversity of landscapes and climatic conditions within some of the individual EU Member States often helps explain regional specialisations as regards dairy farming — pasture is generally grown in lowland areas with a temperate climate. The regions with the highest milk yields within each country are shown in Table 2, with Cantabria (Spain) the only region to report an apparent yield of more than 10 000 kg per head in 2011. Note that some regions with high apparent yields accounted for relatively low shares of national cows’ milk production: the Centre region of France, Lubuskie in Poland and the North East of England each reported regional production of cows’ milk on farms accounting for no more than 2.0 % of the national total in 2011.

Cows’ milk production on farms in 2011 was highest (across NUTS 2 regions of the EU) in Bretagne (France), Southern and Eastern Ireland and Lombardia (Italy), reaching 5.3 million, 4.4 million and 4.2 million tonnes respectively (see Table 3). Output was also relatively high in Mazowieckie (Poland), Galicia (Spain) and Friesland (the Netherlands). Southern and Eastern Ireland (with 824 thousand head), Bretagne (with 727 thousand head) and Lombardia (543 thousand head) recorded the highest number of dairy cows in 2011 — note that each NUTS 2 region has a different land area and that the count of animals is influenced to some degree by the size of each region, as well as the propensity of certain regions to specialise in dairy farming. Note also that the data for Germany and the United Kingdom is only available for NUTS 1 regions (which cover larger areas of land).

With the milk delivery quota for 2010/11 being set at 146.7 million tonnes for the EU-27, the estimated 139.0 million tonnes of cow’s milk collected by dairies in 2011 was well under quota. The milk delivery quota for the EU-27 was raised by another 1 % for 2011/12, part of the ‘soft landing’ approach for the end of the milk quota system that started in April 2009 with consecutive 1 % increases over a five-year period. Despite cow’s milk collections by dairies in the EU-27 increasing slightly to an estimated 139.5 million tonnes in 2012, this remained well under quota, with many EU Member States falling short of their quota ceilings.

Just over one fifth (21.2 %) of all the cows’ milk collected by the EU-28’s dairies in 2012 came from Germany, while slightly more than a sixth of the total (17.3 %) originated from dairies in France (see Figure 2). Dairies collected relatively little milk from other animals (sheep, goats and buffalos) in most of the EU Member States. However, in Greece the volume of milk collected from other species (611 thousand tonnes) was similar to the level of milk collected from cows (637 thousand tonnes). Italy, Spain and France collected quantities of milk from other animals that were similar to Greece, but these volumes were dwarfed by the respective quantities of cows’ milk that their dairies collected (see Table 4).

Milk products

The milk delivered to dairies is converted into a number of fresh products and manufactured dairy products. Some 67.2 million tonnes of raw milk were used to produce 9.1 million tonnes of cheese in the EU-28 in 2011; while 31.5 million tonnes of raw milk were turned into a similar amount of drinking milk; 19.3 million tonnes of raw milk were converted into 2.1 million tonnes of milk powder, and; 34.8 million tonnes of whole milk were used to produce an estimated 2.1 million tonnes of butter as well as associated skimmed milk and buttermilk; this explains why the amount of ‘whole milk’ used for producing butter was higher than the ‘total’ milk used.

Just over one fifth (21.8 %) of the estimated 31.8 million tonnes of drinking milk produced in the EU-28 in 2012 came from the United Kingdom, despite this Member State accounting for only about one tenth of the milk produced in the EU-28. This relative specialisation was noted for other dairy products too: for example, Germany and the Netherlands accounted for almost half (44.7 %) of the whey produced (and not re-used by national dairies), and; Germany, France and Italy accounted for almost three fifths (57.3 %) of the 9.2 million tonnes of cheese produced across the EU-28 in 2012.

Data sources and availability

Milk and milk product statistics are collected under Decision 97/80/EC, implementing Directive 96/16/EC. They cover farm production and the utilisation of milk, as well as the collection and production activity of dairies.

Due to the small number of dairy enterprises, national data are often subject to statistical confidentiality. Thus, providing EU totals in this context is a challenge and some of the information presented in the analysis is based on partial data for the Member States (which may exclude several countries); each exception is clearly footnoted under the tables and figures presented. On the one hand, statistics from these few enterprises provide early estimates on trends. On the other, a complete overview of the dairy sector requires detailed information from farms and this means that the final figures on milk production are only available at an EU level about one year after the reference year.

Dairy products are recorded in terms of weight. It is thus difficult to compare the various products (for example, fresh milk and milk powder). The quantity of whole or skimmed milk used in the dairy processes provides more comparable figures. In such a system, some quantities of used skimmed milk may acquire negative values. For instance, production of cream uses whole milk and generates skimmed milk — the production of cream is thereby expressed in relation to the quantity of used whole milk and a negative quantity of skimmed milk. Whether this skimmed milk is then used by another process or kept as such, it will be recorded as a positive quantity of used skimmed milk.


The EU’s dairy sector operates within the framework of milk quotas, which were introduced in 1984 to address problems of surplus production but are set to expire in April 2015. Each EU Member State has two quotas, one for deliveries to dairies and the other for direct sales at farm level. Milk production data are used for signalling imbalances in the market that, if serious enough, trigger public intervention (of butter and skimmed milk powder) and/or private storage. When national quotas are overrun then punitive ‘super-levies’ are recovered from the farmers or dairies involved.

See also

Further Eurostat information

Data visualisation


Main tables

Agricultural production (t_apro)
Milk and milk products (t_apro_mk)


Agricultural production (apro)
Milk and milk products (apro_mk)
Fat contents and protein contents (cow's milk) - annual data (apro_mk_fatprot)
Milk collection (all milks) and dairy products obtained - annual data (apro_mk_pobta)
Cows'milk collection and products obtained - annual data (apro_mk_cola)
Cows'milk collection and products obtained - monthly data (apro_mk_colm)
Production and utilization of milk on the farm - annual data (apro_mk_farm)
Dairies structure - triennial (apro_mk_str)

Dedicated sections

Methodology / Metadata

Source data for tables, figures and maps (MS Excel)

Other information

  • Commission Decision 1997/80/EC of 18 December 1996 laying down provisions for the implementation of Council Directive 96/16/EC on statistical surveys of milk and milk products (Text with EEA relevance)
  • Directive 1996/16/EC of 19 March 1996 on statistical surveys of milk and milk products

External links