Farmer Focus: The cost of protein is our latest worry

At last the sun has returned to the south-west of Scotland and what a difference it makes to to heart, soul and mind.

Our first-cut silage is in the pit. It’s a bit lighter than last year, but excellent quality.

Grass for zero grazing is hitting growth rates of 100kg DM/day, which is helping keep purchased feed costs down almost 2p/litre.

The milk market is certainly showing more positive signs, with butter and cream the main drivers.

Our main concern is what next winter’s feed is going to cost, with proteins at crazy prices just now and wheat holding firm.

See also: Step-by-step guide to controlling weeds in grass

Forage stocks could be an issue if this summer turns out to be a dry one, with very little carryover from 2017. Still, if the milk price starts with a three, we should manage OK.

The one thing I have really noticed on the farm is compaction on the land. Heavy rains in 2017 took their toll.

A dairy can consume so much time in the yard that the land can very easily be taken for granted, yet drainage, liming and reseeding are key drivers for production and profit.

On my travels last week I attended the AGM of our next generation group at NFU Scotland. I am very excited to be involved with this group, as I feel it is very important to have strong links between young farmers and NFU Scotland.

Agri-politics is not for everyone, but the ones who are inspired must be given every opportunity to express the need for change in our current agricultural policy to help the younger generation develop and grow their businesses.

But this is not just about new entrants. I believe there are many young farmers out there in a family business that feel very constrained in trying new ideas or systems.

How do we change this? Innovation needs to keep happening in our industry for survival, so the young must strive for better and the old must listen and encourage. Both have responsibility here, so take heed.

Gary Mitchell milks 800 cows, with heifers reared on a local farm. Gary zero grazes 80ha of the 195ha he owns. He is vice-chairman for NFU Scotland.