Milk prices this autumn are likely to be the highest since the mid-1990s and dairy farmers should be prepared to take advantage of seasonality payments, milk processors have urged.

Extra autumn litres should be worth well over 30p/litre to most producers, regardless of milk processor, Dairy Farmers of Britain regional business manager, Doug Gray suggested.

The firm’s own seasonality scheme offered a bonus of 8-12p/litre produced above members’ Rolling Average Production (RAP) base this September, October, November and December, he said. “Depending on the extent of production over the herd’s base, this makes the extra autumn litres worth at least 33p and as much as 37.5p at our current standard litre base price of 25.5p/litre.” Other processors also offered seasonality bonuses that took prices over 30p/litre (see table).

Mr Gray acknowledged dairy farmers were unlikely to switch their calving pattern, but there were several other ways to boost autumn output by one or two litres a cow a day, he said.

Feeding extra concentrates was one option, provided herds were not already on high levels of concentrates, senior Promar farm business consultant, Andrew Hawkins said. Average response rates of one litre of milk for every kg of concentrates were possible, but had to be targeted at the right animals. “It’s no good giving more concentrates to cows over 200 days in milk, or those in the first 100 days of milk on grazing and cake in the parlour, as they’ll probably be at maximum intake already.”

Reducing the amount of milk wasted due to high cell counts was also important, he said. “You need to fix the cause, not respond to the effects.”

He also advised producers to monitor grazing areas closely to ensure grass was at the right growth stage. “At the moment, grass is still good, so there’s significant potential. But you need to maximise the dry matter intake from forage and balance it with concentrates to maintain energy requirements of cows so they come into the seasonality period at full steam.”

Seasonality payments

Company

Adjusted standard base price (p/litre)

Seasonality bonus

First Milk

26.3

Paid on litres in excess of “core volume”. August 110% of core price, September 135%, October and November 140%, December 110%

Milk Link

25.7

A and B pricing. “B litres” priced at 32.65p/litre. Paid on litres produced over “A litres” from a set period the previous year

Arla

26.0

5p/litre for extra litres over members’ base average daily production

DFoB

25.5

8-12p/litre for extra litres above herd’s rolling average production

Dairy Crest

26.2

Seasonality and profile contract: Base price + 1.5p/litre in September, +2p/litre October and November, +1.5p/litre December. Also profile adjuster payment

Wiseman

26.2

Base price +1.5p/litre in August, +2p/litre September and October and +1.5p/litre November

Note: Prices above are a rough guide only. Seasonality contracts differ widely and some feature more punitive prices during spring milk flush.