Farmer Focus: Time to supply the milk the market wants

When I write these articles, I’m always careful about not writing anything too date-specific. By the time FW hits your kitchen table, whatever has happened is in the past and we move on. This time is different and I find myself looking forward and indulging in some crystal ball gazing.

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By the time this edition arrives, a number of things might have happened. Have the cows been turned out yet? Will we have passed our TB test? Will I, dear reader, have been able to appease my girlfriend and have a haircut? The answers to all of these is a complete mystery.

As you’re reading this, though, we are approaching a historical moment. The moment when milk quotas will be lifted across Europe, letting the good times and white stuff flow. A bright new era is about to shipped in, along with all the bounty of world markets.

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In the UK we have been under quota limits for a long time, bar the past couple seasons. So what will change for us? Despite now not having a restriction on litres produced, the past 12 months should have taught all of us the perils of carrying on producing regardless of where it ends up. I don’t know of any other industry where processors will turn up on the doorstep and take everything produced regardless of whether they asked for it or not.

Milk factories can only handle so many litres and some will become full quicker than others. To counter this, A+B pricing models are being introduced, but confusion remains over the B part. How will the price be set? Can I sell it to someone else? If I can sell it to someone else, will processors be happy having a B-pool that will fluctuate wildly depending on feed availability and milk price? That’s hardly a good supply chain.

Despite quotas being lifted, supply management will still be key. When the restrictions end many countries are expected to expand production significantly. It is important we remember to supply the market with the amount of product it requires.

Ross Symons

Ross Symons farms 200 dairy cows, including his own small herd of pedigree Holsteins, with his parents near Truro, Cornwall. They are converting their year-round-calving herd to autumn block-calving.