Nature has been good. Really good actually. The past year was definitely one of the best years (at least since I have been dairy farming) in terms of rainfall and grass growth rates. A very mild and easy winter followed by a rainy and extended spring. This has allowed dairy farmers to have very high yields of silage during the spring and also allowed them to extend the benefits of an ‘eternal spring’, which in the south of Chile means extending the possibility to produce more milk on grass.
But abundance is also a challenge to manage properly. High grass growth rates need to be managed smartly and quickly, otherwise the risk of losing yield or simply wasting food and resources is too high.
Farmers here are just starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel after two very dry summers, which have had a huge affect on production. In addition to that, there have been lowest prices historically paid for milk and big mass of animals that farmers have sold overseas to ‘diversify’ the business or simply pay their bills.
The question I ask myself is what comes now? Nature is helping us lift our hopes for a better future with higher paid prices for our milk and lots of high-quality silage. Sounds almost too perfect does it not? I say we need to be optimistic without losing our heads.
Markets are starting to react as demand for dairy products increases and WMP stocks decrease. This should be promising for farmers worldwide, as their products should have no trouble finding a destiny either in local or international markets.
The industry in Chile, mainly made up of Nestlé, Soprole (Fonterra), Watts and Colun (the only co-op), should be capable of transferring the benefits of part of these sales to farmers with no problem at all. Something that farmers have been eagerly waiting for, as farmers here did not see an increase in their milk price in the previous ‘peak price’.
This even went to a national economic court (TDLC) to see if there had been a deliberate suppression of price from Soprole, Nestle and Watts.
The affect of payment increases in our farming systems could be very positive for the unpredictable future, one where concepts like sustainability and being environmentally friendly gain more and more importance.
This will cost farmers money as their systems will need to become more competitive year after year to survive in the troubled waters of the dairy markets.
That is when farmers, industry and market need to be on the same boat and going in the same direction. Nature, farmers and market seem to be doing their part of the job, let’s just hope industry has the same mindset.