26 November 1999

CHANGES AND CHALLENGES

The mid 80s will be remembered for the introduction of quotas; the early 90s for deregulation and increasing milk prices and the late 1990s for a devastating fall in milk price. But whats in store for the new millennium?

Already, it appears that the next few years will be ones remembered for change in the dairy industry: The newly announced Milk Marque successors – Zenith, Central Milk and Meadow Fresh – will force changes to the way milk prices are negotiated.

Its too early to tell what this will mean in terms of milk price, both to ex-Milk Marque members and to those on Milk Marque plus contracts.

But for those who find themselves on new contracts or supplying buyers with different requirements, it may mean rethinking cow management. One producer featured in this Update has already found altering feeding has allowed him to profit from a contract paying less for fat produced.

Although there is hope for more stable, if not higher, milk prices, sudden increases are unlikely. Learning to cope with a lower price is one change already in progress on many farms.

Some producers featured in this Update have increased output without increasing costs, sold a forager to focus on extended grazing and increased yield a cow without complicating feeding.

Developments in new technology will also help in a new millennium, with producing fewer unwanted dairy bulls becoming a reality and time saving devices for the milking parlour commonplace.

Next year will also see changes to Dairy Update, with 11 published. It will be arriving through your letterbox on the first Friday of every month from February to December.