Viewpoint: 2015 the year of the suckler?
Published 05/08/2015 | 02:30
Could this be the year that the suckler cow leaves more behind her than the dairy cow?
This was the question thrown at me by a farm leader recently - half joking, but still all in earnest.
It seems hard to countenance. After all, if a suckler man clears €250/ha before adding in his EU payments, he's probably doing a good job. The equivalent dairy farmer is likely to be aiming for 10 times that.
So can the scales really tilt so far, so quick?
A big part of the equation is the massive volatility that milk prices now find themselves subjected to. In 2014, milkmen were still enjoying some of the strongest prices ever - when milk solids were included, many were receiving well over 40c/l. The Shinagh demonstration farm in west Cork averaged 46c/l for the whole of last year.
Fast forward to June when Glanbia's basic milk price was cut further to 26c/l. The harsh reality is that most dairy analysts believe that this doesn't represent the bottom.
In New Zealand the price has tentatively been set at 23c/l, but farmers there believe that Fonterra leaders may have been too optimistic as they tried to soften the bad news ahead of board elections.
Incredibly, despite their absence from the market for over a year, the Chinese appear to still have stocks to clear. Worse, their domestic production has climbed by 6pc this year.