Farmer Focus: Dairy crisis as milk prices go down and feed prices up

Sadly, our dairy situation has deteriorated dramatically since my last report.

There has been a general reduction in the milk price of 6-12%. The reason given is an overproduction of milk; but I suspect injudicious imports and low international prices also played a role.

We are in the middle of winter when milk production is normally at its lowest, with prices either rising or at least remaining stable. Our feed prices are also at a high.

This can only mean we are in for a difficult summer and that the number of milk producers can decrease even further.

Fortunately the price reductions have not affected us on the farm because our price is linked to the retail price of our milk and that has not been reduced yet.

See also: Read more from our other livestock Farmer Focus writers

Our ever-present winter worry on the farm became a reality this year. I was delivering milk at the factory when the frantic reports came that a veld fire (bush fire) driven by strong winds was entering the farm from the West.

It always has to happen on a Saturday when an important rugby match takes place! Fortunately the community came to our rescue. There were about 30 people already fighting the fire when I arrived on the farm.

The wind changed to a southerly direction and we were able to contain the spread of the fire and put it out without real damage to the farm. (Well before the game began – and the Springboks won this game!)

This is my last contribution and I want to thank all who have read my columns with interest, reacted to it and even visited me.

All farmers have a bond, which includes a closeness and respect for nature. But they are also subject to different weather, market, governmental and regulatory circumstances.

I have tried to give you a glimpse of our challenges and opportunities in South Africa. I hope you have taken something from it. I have no doubt you will enjoy the contributions of my successor.

Danie Schutte is an organic Ayrshire dairy farmer who also processes dairy products on his 90hafarm near Pretoria, South Africa.