Dairy Farmers Feel the Heat

UK - The National Farmers' Union is warning milk buyers not to pay ‘too little too late’ as dairy farmers across the country struggle to maintain milk production following months of hot, dry weather.
calendar icon 13 July 2010
clock icon 2 minute read
National Farmers Union

While farmers are taking measures to keep milk flowing in the short term, there are fears that the early use of winter feed and added costs could lead to shortages of supply later in the year.

NFU dairy board chairman Mansel Raymond said “Forage stocks are starting to run seriously low with some farmers reporting a drop in first cut silage yields of 20-30 per cent and up to 50 per cent lower yields for their second cut. This all comes on the back of the big freeze, and the late, wet spring, which led to a prolonged winter housing period, depleting feed stocks.

“The high temperatures and lack of grazing in areas like the South East mean that, in order to keep cows comfortable and ensure they have enough to eat, some herds are being housed at a time when they would normally be outdoors adding further pressure on feed supplies and raising costs. On top of which straw is also in very short supply meaning bedding costs are hugely expensive. This picture is building into a massive hike in production costs for dairy farmers and tight milk supply forecasts for the rest of the year.

“British milk production in May was up by 2.5 per cent on last year, but on the whole the 2009/10 milk year marked the lowest production on record; this small increase on such a low base is nothing to get excited about. With weather conditions predicted to remain broadly hotter and drier than average this year, milk buyers and retailers should be genuinely concerned about the impact on milk production in the months ahead.

“The small milk price increases paid to farmers since the NFU published its Great Milk Robbery Report last month will be cushioning producers from some of the higher costs they are facing. However, our report suggested that up to 4.3ppl in additional revenue is being made by milk processors on the back of strong commodity markets, so with increases of as little as 0.5 up to 1.5ppl announced since June, there should clearly be more to come.

“I would caution buyers against a ‘tit for tat’ game of offering small increases for as long as they can get away with it because it could end up being too little, too late.”

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