Two important things I learnt from visits to Ireland; firstly “yield is vanity, profit is sanity” and that “feeding silage is the enemy of good grassland management.”
Our cows did go out on 23 January (albeit intermittently), but we are still having to feed some winter rations of grass silage and maize silage.
At the moment, with milk prices rising dramatically as never before the temptation is to feed the cows to keep yields up rather than force them back to what the grass would produce. This is causing them not to pull down the paddocks tight enough.
We are using a bunch of in-calf heifers to follow the cows round the paddocks to pull the residuals down adequately; this is all causing a bit of a dilemma on what to do next. Some are predicting the milk price will be 50p/l by Christmas but there are those that say that’s a saying from the First World War.
With milk production nationally down 2% and prices at these levels, it seems like a once in a lifetime opportunity to feed for more milk in spite of dramatically rising costs.
The announcement by Arla that the price paid for liquid milk was failing to meet producers’ costs, so it now intends to export milk products abroad in a more valuable longer shelf life form was both interesting and pertinent.
It got an instant response from Sainsbury's and it increased the price on the shelf by 7p/l.
Hopefully the era of cheap food has come to an end
For far too long, the supermarkets have been pitting one supplier against the other, screwing the price down mercilessly to use milk as a loss leader.
When asked why they did this, the reply was “because we can.”
Hopefully the era of cheap food has come to an end. Although farmers may not be appreciated for their efforts, the public must realise they have to pay the cost of production for some of life’s essentials. The era of cheap food is over.
It was good to have a day recently at the DairyTech at Stoneleigh with many hundreds of stands demonstrating the best of British products available to the dairy farmers.
Good to see the JFC stand from Ireland had an eminently affordable computerised calf feeder for milk powder in a very robust form. But what particularly took my fancy was what I would call a cuddle box that they produce. This is a skip-like box on castors, complete with heat lamp and a front access door with water and feed buckets.
I pointed out that an alternative gate allowing the cow to lick the calf would be ideal on wheelbarrow farms where the calf has to be separated from the dam at birth for the sake of Johne's control. This mother to offspring access would greatly appease our critics.