Farmer Focus: Milk price back on everyone’s mind again

Welcome to 2018. I do hope you all had a great festive holiday – because I didn’t.

In fact, it was so bad I might lock the semen tank this March to guarantee a quieter Christmas. About 25 calvings took place here between 25 December and New Year’s day.

This was a nightmare because no bull calves could be sold until 8 January. Pens filled up very quickly.

As many of you will know, training them to suck is very time consuming and patience is required in abundance.

See also: Outlook 2018: Cost of production analysis vital for dairy sector

Anyway, we survived and I was very glad to see my four Romanians arrive back on 4 January, so normality was almost restored.

The milk price is on everyone’s mind at the moment and the Arla producers among us, of which I am one, have a lot to think about.

This month’s changes to the full manufacturing contract mean we have a cut of at least 1p/litre in real terms.  A price drop sounded bad enough at 1.3p/litre but on a standard litre this will add up to a loss of over 2p/litre for some as a worst-case scenario. 

Jonathan Ovens’ removal from the board is very contentious and I am disappointed at how this was handled.

As UK Arla farmers, we should be calling for a UK members’ meeting. I have a real issue with the trouble we have in connecting with fellow members around the UK. 

Farmers can only speak to their local representative or use a controlled blog on the Arla website.

And as Brexit gets closer, strong British representation is what is needed at the Arla Foods Amba board level.

My biggest disappointment this year so far (so soon) was missing the Oxford Farming Conference because of workload and staff shortages.

I even had a seat booked at Michael Gove’s table where we could have discussed my wet meadows where flowers don’t want to grow.

All I can say is I’m glad agriculture is devolved and I believe our Scottish Government, which has many faults, does understand the many issues in agriculture.

I was very pleased when I read Tim Farron on Twitter: “Farm payments compensate for the fact the market is broken because supermarkets and processors dominate the industry and exploit the farmers.”

I do hope 2018 is a dry one.


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