The financial pressure on milk producers is growing, demonstrated by the Dairy Group’s latest MCi results for July 2012. These show a further deterioration as a result of the wet summer.

“Milk from forage was down 21% on the previous year to 7.4 litres a cow a day, compared with 9.4 litres a cow a day the year before,” said director Ian Powell.

“The fall in daily milk yield was 1.3 litres a cow, down to 24.8 litres a cow a day, a fall of 5%, which was similar to the UK drop in milk production. We continue to see a significant drop in milk protein, down by 15% in both June and July compared to the previous year.”

This showed cows were short of energy, which is likely to affect August milk production and cow fertility. The lower milk from forage resulted in a 14% increase in concentrate feed rate, to 0.32 kg/litre.

Purchased feed cost a litre rose almost 1p/litre to 7.3p/litre, while margin over purchased feed fell £12 a cow to £128, compared with £140 a year earlier.

“The wet summer is likely to have an increasing effect on cow performance, with cows milking below expectation in September.

“However, the worst is yet to come, as these results do not reflect the much higher purchased feed price nor the effect of the summer on winter forage. We have early reports of maize yields down 60% on normal, with the majority of crops yet to be harvested.”

Lower maize yields would increase harvest costs a tonne and for many dairy farmers there would barely be enough maize silage to last the winter, let alone provide forage for buffer feeding next summer.

“The key to forage planning will be to reserve the best forage for the milking herd and then to work out how to feed dry stock cost-effectively.”

For more on milk price cuts

See our page on the milk price crisis