Henry Walsh: Processors must halt the downward pressure on milk price

The latest indications are for very warm and humid weather with temperatures ranging between 19 and 25 degrees - and maybe even above that.
The latest indications are for very warm and humid weather with temperatures ranging between 19 and 25 degrees - and maybe even above that.
Henry Walsh

Henry Walsh

It's been another excellent month for farming. Dry ground, growth matching and slightly exceeding demand, some grass bales made, some reseeding completed, pit silage on target for early June, breeding on or even ahead of target.

Cows are producing 24 litres at 4.2pc fat and the herd has hit 3.7pc protein for the last fortnight. This equates to 1.95 kg/ms and we are feeding 2kg of a 14pc nut. AFC is currently 623 or 160 per cow. Growth is 71kg/ha/day with a demand of 57kg/ha/day and 12pc of the milking platform is currently out with bales and reseeding.

We are coming under a bit of pressure on grazing residuals, with three paddocks pre-cut this week, and perhaps after our next walk some more bales may need to be harvested.

A decision will need to be made soon on the first dose of the year for the calves; who, apart from the last few, are off milk and eating 1kg of nuts. We will go with an oral dose first and then consider an ivermectin from July on. Over the last number of years we have been treating the milking herd with a zero withdrawal dose in June.

I have always been happy with the decision and the response, but in the interest of reducing usage we will test dung samples this year and treat accordingly.

Some commentators suggest the treatment only works for a short time after treatment, and the burden soon returns so ultimately the cow learns to cope with the challenge.

 Considering so many farmers complete "Health Plans" as part of the KT programme, testing and monitoring should become the new norm for this, similar to milk sampling, to determine if blanket dry-cow treatment is warranted.

At farm level the operation is going quite well, although when we look around there are challenges and even clouds gathering.

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Milk price is disappointing. There is virtually no product left in intervention and after something like 11 consecutive lifts in the GDT auctions our milk purchasers still have to be challenged to stop downward price movements let alone discuss price increases.

All our milk purchasers, in my opinion, are paying less for milk than they would have a few years ago in a similar market situation.

We have seen an increase in their processing costs, not all related to expansion, and a hardening in their stance on what they need to pay.

Farm costs have increased, with urea up by as much as €100/t over the last few years and feed costs up over €50/t.

These increases were initially camouflaged by expansion, but even in the four short years since quota abolition the majority of farmers have pushed their milking platforms to their potential.

We may now have to face challenges on Nitrates or stocking rate depending on the outcome of the Nitrates review being carried out by the Irish Dept of Agriculture.

On the election front, while the media have focussed on the rise in Green Party support, the actual counting has resulted in less Green seats in Europe than predicted. However, we need to realise that all parties are moving in that direction as highlighted by the Dail declaring a 'climate emergency' for Ireland. Even though there were only six deputies present for the vote there have been no dissenting voices, so we can take it that there was cross party consensus on the subject.

Politics, the world we live in, the Ireland we live in, continue to evolve. We have new MEPs, new councillors and this will lead to new debates, new ideas, new plans. There will be lots of changes proposed, probably all of it well meaning, but we have to ensure we are not casualties of decisions based on supposition instead of fact. Ireland is still a hugely agricultural country and for good reason. We are recognised as the most carbon efficient dairy producers in Europe and four times more carbon efficient at producing beef than Brazil. Now is the time to defend it.

Indo Farming

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