We still have no real respite from the hot dry weather in Kilkenny, with 13mm of rain recorded on Monday night, the first drop in well over a month.
This was quickly followed by two consecutive days of over 25°C, with the temperatures burning off most of the benefit from the rain.
We are up to 6kg of concentrate feeding now in the parlour and grazing stemmy, stressed grass for the rest of this week.
This has kept silage out of the diet so far, but unless we get some decent downpours over the weekend, we will have to open the pit.
We have some aftergrass from the silage cut nearly three weeks ago that might come into play quickly if it got another small drop of rain and lower temperatures.
The forecast looks reasonably promising for the next week, so hopefully we will get a change that will facilitate grass growth and help to reduce feed costs going into the summer.
We spread a small amount of fertiliser and slurry after Monday night, so we are primed to take advantage if the moisture comes.
Milk is holding up well, despite the poorer quality grass in the diet. We moved to an 18% protein dairy nut with advice from a nutritionist to keep cows milking well and to keep them healthy. In 2018 most herds, including ours, got fat on a low protein, high energy diet. Learning from those mistakes, we looked at milk yield, milk urea and overall diet.
The higher protein nut has lifted milk yield back up from 25 to 27 litres, with fat and protein sitting stubbornly at 4% and 3.4%. The milk urea had dropped to 11 and is back up to 17, so hopefully we are back in the sweet spot.
This round of fertiliser has dropped significantly in cost from the previous round and hopefully will continue to drop through the year. This, combined with lower fertiliser usage due to the drier summer will, for good or bad, keep fertiliser costs under control.
Feed costs and volume will be well ahead on the other hand, with the current level of drought costing almost €2 per cow per day in extra feed.
With inflation on all other inputs increasing by maybe 40% on average since 2020, we need milk price to at least hold where it is for the next few months, with over 40% of the country’s milk delivered between May and August.
The vibes are reasonably good for the second half of the year, so we need our milk purchasers to be brave now and back their milk suppliers over the next few months.
We are at a new waterline with costs of production and we need a strong message from our co-ops that they can sell our sustainably produced milk at a level that leaves a margin above those costs of production.
If they can’t achieve this, the proposed cow exit scheme will start to look very attractive to farmers that work long hours in often stressful conditions with weather, markets and media criticism to contend with every day.
These farmers need a strong signal over the next few months or we could be looking at a lot of redundant stainless steel in our milk processing facilities over the coming years.