FARMER FOCUS:High milk prices welcome

Strong and consistently good grass growth through the dry, warm autumn has ensured excellent pasture utilisation and very high milk solids production in both herds.

High constituents are also boosting the current high milk price, which is helping to compensate for the slow to start and expensive spring.

Now, as grass growth has dropped below demand on both farms, we’re grazing through the accumulated wedge of high quality pasture, which will feed the milking herds for a further 4-6 weeks until the end of November.

Dairy young-stock are growing well and all have adequate grass to graze until early 2014 when the two-year-olds will be housed ready for calving in February.

As the summer of 2013 slips slowly away it’s a good opportunity to reflect on what’s been a highly productive year for a grassland dairy farmer.

We near the end of the grazing season with the silage pits full of high quality, dry winter feed. Purchased feed and fertilizer prices are falling and for now at least we’re receiving a decent milk price, which is also still on the rise. What more could we wish for?

From a business perspective being able to recognise the good times are equally as important as realising when things are bad. But even more important is the realisation that neither will continue indefinitely and, essentially, we need to plan accordingly.

As we’re increasingly becoming part of the global food system, getting used to unpredictable market volatility is going to challenge us all. I spent a day recently in the company of NFUS, Dairy Co and industry leaders examining the merits of trading futures in dairy commodities.

Aimed at reducing future market variability, very little or no trading takes place and it’s not really clear why, especially considering how much hedging takes place in other agricultural commodities.

One reason perhaps is because historically we’ve been largely insulated with a large proportion of dairy going straight in to liquid sales. A future that undoubtedly sees the dairy industry forging stronger links across the sea in both directions will see many of us increasingly exposed to the variability of the world market, where perhaps a little hedging might just calm the waters.

Robert Craig farms a 160ha all-grass dairy unit in north-east Cumbria. A passionate grassland farmer, Robert aims to maximise profit while ensuring a balanced and enjoyable life. Robert is also current Cumbria NFU chairman

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