Despite challenges around the availability of labour and environmental restrictions, the short-term outlook for dairy has arguably never been greater. For winter milk farmers with full clamps of high-quality silage, a deal done for meal purchases and plenty of labour around then the next couple of months should be very profitable.
Of course, the nature of farming is such that things will go wrong – if it was easy, everyone would be at it. Minimising these risks through implementing a robust herd health plan is one way to avoid that problem. Good health and safety standards and giving employees and everyone working on the farm plenty of time off is another important step. So too is making sure there is a back-up generator on stand-by in the event of power cuts.
While the outlook for winter milk is good this winter, the future outlook is less certain.
Major issues in the market are discussed on pages 46 and 47. Because it is a less profitable venture than spring milk production, over time more and more farmers are going to pivot to spring milk. That is unless the price being received for winter milk increases to a level that is sustainable for specialised producers.
It is hard to see that happening when there is such a ready supply of equally high-quality winter milk freely available in Northern Ireland. The big problem affecting price is not Northern Irish milk, it is own brand milk from southern processors being sold at a discount to branded milk.
In this week's focus
On page 44, we take a look at steps winter milk producers could take to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, namely the use of native grains and pulses instead of importing soyabean meal from the Americas.
On pages 48 and 49, Teagasc winter milk specialist James Dunne goes through the essentials for winter milk producers in terms of formulating diets this winter. As we know, feed prices have increased by over €120/t since last year, so finding ways to limit exposure will be key.