Farmer Focus: Barking mad milk price cuts

Normally, I would write on a Sunday evening just after tea when things are a bit quiet. However this month I’m stretched for time and instead it’s Monday morning. And things aren’t quiet.

This is mainly due to the Jack Russell barking at intruders that usually turn out to be pigeons. In this instance she is making some stupid noise – perhaps an early warning indicator, like cows lying down because it’s soon to rain?

We’re looking to harvest the maize soon – perhaps she’s upset about that? If anything she should be pleased – the crop is looking great, you stupid dog.

Getting the crop off even earlier than last year will help our reseeding, too. This year we are drilling a grazing ley that should give us extra growth on the shoulders of the season. Plus all this means autumn is on its way and involves lazy evenings in front of the fire for her, so that is even more of a bonus.

Perhaps she’s worried about when I start serving cows again? We’ve had one milk fever so far, post-calving checks have been trouble-free and the cows are milking well, so all indications are good on that front also. The semen has been bought, the AI tank is topped up and hopefully a new AI race installed by the time AI’ing starts.

What I expect is that she is really worried about the milk price, or at least she should be if she isn’t already. It’s been well documented about how severe the cuts have been and how quickly they have happened.

Cashflow and budgets just won’t work on prices of mid-20s for milk. As ever, market volatility is blamed, but that is only uttered for price drops and not price rises. Where does this leave our business? The past few months have been relatively kind to us, as I’m sure they have been to others as well.

Being on a seasonality contract will help us this winter as we might not feel the full blow of the cuts until spring.

Next year, therefore, will probably turn into survival of the fittest and any spending will have to be heavily justified. Perhaps the dog is just worried that her biscuit budget will be slashed.

Ross Symons farms 200 dairy cows, including his own small herd of pedigree Holsteins, with his parents near Truro, Cornwall. They are converting their year-round calving herd to autumn block calving.

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