Dale Farm has launched a milk production re-alignment scheme, designed to encourage suppliers to produce more milk through autumn and early winter.

In a letter sent out to members, the co-op points out that once additional cheese processing facilities come online in 2025 there will be enough capacity to handle all milk produced by members in the peak month of May.

However, within the Dale Farm pool there is up to 40% more milk delivered in May when compared to the trough month of September, when facilities will be operating well below capacity.

The new scheme comes into effect from August 2024 and runs for a three year period. It will pay 4p/litre on additional litres produced over and above the average monthly volumes supplied during August to January in each of the last three years.


To analyse what the scheme might mean, we have taken an average supplier producing 750,000 litres annually, with a monthly supply profile in line with the NI average.

Shown in Table 1 are estimates of the monthly volumes produced over the last three years.

Assuming the farmer simply produces an additional 2.5% milk over the six months from August 2024 to January 2025, the 4p/l payment on additional litres generates an increase of just £344.

That equates to an extra 0.1p/l for the six month period from August to January, or 0.05p/l across annual output.

Our example highlights that unless there is a major shift in calving patterns, the 4p/l payment is unlikely to generate significantly more money for farmers.

If the example farm managed to alter their calving profile so that the peak supply month moves from May and is instead spread over the autumn months, the 4p/l will generate an extra £5,510 in milk sales.

However, with the breeding season winding down on many dairy farms, calving patterns and milk production later in 2024 are likely to be similar to previous years.


There is also the potential that improved forage quality and increased meal feeding could help to flatten the supply profile later this year, while some farmers could look to move to three times per day milking.

Anyone considering extra meal feeding or an additional milking should do their sums carefully.

There will also be some individual cases that will significantly benefit from the scheme such as a herd nearing the end of an expansion phase, or one that has fully re-stocked after a severe hit with bovine TB.