PPI dairy price index drops
Ornua's Purchase Price Index (PPI) fell in December, reflecting a slowdown on global dairy commodity markets.

The index, which reflects the value of dairy products exported by Ornua, stood at 111.3 last month. This is a 3.2% drop compared with November. The index is now back at the level observed last August, after peaking in October.

The PPI value reflects the recent drop in butter prices, which have recently stabilised around €4,000/t after peaking near €7,000/t in the autumn.

Dairygold chief executive Jim Woulfe said this week that market returns were currently 8c/l behind the milk price and processors would struggle to keep farmgate prices above 30c/l in 2018 in the current context.

Co-ops are due to start setting December milk prices at the end of this week.

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Dairy markets: butter prices finding a new normal

All-silage-and-meal diet beckons for Greenfield
The little bit of grass will be a thing of the past next week as a diet of soya hulls, pit silage and meal will be on menu for Greenfield, writes Jack Kennedy.

The unusual summer diet continues in Greenfield Kilkenny with the diet about to turn into pit silage and soya hulls next week.

The May grass silage bales are all but gone so the plastic will have to come off the first-cut silage next week. Soya hulls will be purchased and a hired diet feeder will mix and feed out. Some 50-odd bales will be kept in case machinery is not available on any particular day.

With little or no rain in the past six weeks and little or none in the forecast for Kilkenny, this will be the diet for the next two weeks at least. The diet will be a 16% crude protein nut (3kg in morning and 3kg in the evening) with a mix of soya hulls (4 kg/cow) and silage mix (6/7kg/day).

Farm cover was measured at 269kg last Monday and there is little or no growth. Water remains critical to the herd in these extreme dry and high temperatures.

Cows have access to water in the collecting yard and that takes some pressure off the troughs in the paddock. The clean-up bulls were taken from the replacement heifers last week. AI breeding continues with the herd and there are still two to three bulling per day (almost 10 weeks) into breeding season now.

Cell count remains a work in progress and some will be culled or quarters dried off next week.

The last milk test (12 July) shows a result of about 19kg per cow at 3.73% protein and 4.50% fat (1.5kg MS/cow) at 323,000 cell count, 14 TBC and 4.93% lactose.

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Watch: growth and grass disappear on Greenfield Farm Kilkenny

Outscourcing catch crops – a fodder shortage solution?
The opportunity exists for tillage and livestock farmers to benefit from contract-growing forage catch crops to bulk feed stocks.

With winter feed being an issue and the viability of wholecrop being questioned due to its expense, some farmers who are short on forage are caught in limbo.

As discussed in this week’s management notes, the time for wholecrop winter wheat is passing quickly.

With the quality of spring wheat and barley crops varying, wholecrop silage will be in limited supply.

The other option is growing a forage catch crop in early cut stubble fields. There is a belief that an opportunity exists for tillage and livestock farmers to benefit from contract-growing forage catch crops to bulk feed stocks.

Farmers can early cut stubble fields from winter barely crops, as mentioned by Andy Doyle in this week's management notes.

If planted now, the temperature will allow for good germination once rain comes.

A first cut can be expected to be taken off such crops in October, according to Liam Leahy, tillage adviser at Dairygold. They must be fertilised and managed well before the first cut.

Following this they should be left to grow over winter. The potential for a second cut in February will further help to stretch fodder stocks.

No fertiliser would be needed over winter, as uptake and growth would not justify the cost. Natural nitrogen would carry the crop through.

Once the second cut is taken off in mid-February, the field can be planted with a spring crop.

“It is important that the catch crop does not head out, because if it enters the reproductive phase it will become a weed next year," said Liam.

The crop would also need to be burned off with Roundup.

Oats are also an option, however it would be very costly.

“There is a huge opportunity there for tillage and livestock farmers to work together, it would put the shoulder to the wheel in a sense and it really is a win-win situation if done correctly," said Liam.

Various current and winter feed options are discussed in this week’s Focus by the Irish Farmers Journal livestock team.

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Making milk from maize in sunny Spain

No low-cost loans in 2018