Farmer Focus: Finger pointing won’t help gloomy milk market

Things are looking bleak, with dairy industry commentators and futures markets alike pointing only one way.

It is at this stage in the dairy price cycle you read people online blaming each other for the changes in the market. Accusing a neighbour of expanding, or another of milking three times a day.

I don’t really agree with these thoughts. I believe everyone must do whatever they can in the good times to position their businesses well for the bad times.

If you are relying on your neighbours to keep you profitable, I’m afraid you’ll be disappointed.

See also: Arla and First Milk hold milk prices in uncertain market

About the author

Tom Stable
Tom Stable and family, Ulverston, Cumbria, milk 300 Holsteins twice a day, producing milk for Arla and ice cream for their Cumbrian Cow brand. The 215ha operation, of which half is rented, grows grass, maize, and winter wheat. Cows average 10,800 litres.
Read more articles by Tom Stable

It’s much bigger things that affect milk price and they’re nearly all out of our control. Worldwide weather events, international trade deals, global pandemics and war are just a few we can name recently.

That said, a decline in milk price, anywhere near as fast as it went up, is terrifying. We have managed with higher costs partly because our production has been higher.

Take a couple of pence away and it’s a whole different story.

Things were ticking along nicely here up until the very end of November, when an outbreak of winter dysentery passed through the cows.

We typically have two or three cows “sick” on the rumination system, but at its worst we had more than 40.

It’s short-lived and they resume eating around 12 hours after they stop, but the yield drop is severe, and we haven’t seen it return yet. The herd is down over three litres a cow and I expect fertility to take a hit.

On a brighter note, Anna and I got away on a busman’s holiday for a few days looking around farms in the north of the county and visiting Agriscot.

We went to seven different farms similar in size and yield to ourselves, but all with slightly different approaches.

It was great to get out and see some fresh ideas and we were very thankful for the time each farmer gave us.

Merry Christmas to you all from everyone here at Bolton Manor. I hope the day itself goes as smoothly as possible for you all, especially those of you with cows to milk in the morning.