Farmer Focus: Frustrated by lack of supply chain change

I did hope to be reviewing all the summer work completed in this article, but that’s not possible because downpours on a daily basis mean we are nowhere near the finish.

Normally September is one of our driest months. We still have late-sown spring wheat for wholecrop to harvest and 160ha of fourth-cut silage.

The quality will be poor, so we must get it dry. I have already booked a few lorry loads of fat from now to April to replace poor energy levels in forage, so hopefully reasonable milk production can be maintained.

See also: Read more from our livestock Farmer Focus writers

Shock at milk prices

I was somewhat surprised by recent price announcements of a very poor 0.5p/litre rise for November from one contract and another contract dropping 0.13/litre.

It has become obvious who is controlling certain processors, as they pass extra cream margins back to retailers that have aligned schemes. However, they give the farmers the excuse that they do this to control volume.

There are many ways to control price, so why can processors not give producers forecasts of at least an indication of the volumes they require?

Instead it’s always the farmer needing to declare their forward production as they fight the elements.

Cost-of-production model must go

I do believe the cost-of-production model needs to go, as there are so many cover-ups in the way the milk is paid for.

We must have more transparency in milk payments and retailers must clearly show what the farmer is paid extra to benefit their cause.

I’m very frustrated by how little has changed in our industry apart from a lack of supply.

I am now hearing many horror stories about labour availability in many areas of the country in all sectors.

This might cut volumes in production more than any other factor.

We were all horrified to see the chicken factory on the news and the food safety breaches. Wasn’t it great to see headlines in the papers announcing all the retailers that had suspended trading with the factory in question?

Retailers are the number one reason why our processing industry is starved of cash, as well as our farms. So if retailer behaviour is not better controlled, our Brexit opportunities will be ruined.

I do hope next time I write winter fodder is all gathered in and the milk price is still on the rise, as I see no real evidence of major increase in volumes in the immediate future.

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