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Thursday 16 August 2018

Fodder crisis sees milk production dip by almost 6% in April

Ciaran Moran

Ciaran Moran

The fodder crisis which became acute on dairy farms across the country last spring has driven a substantial drop in milk production.

Domestic milk intake by creameries and pasteurisers was estimated at 815.5m litres for April 2018. This was 5.9pc below the corresponding 2017 figure.

There was also a sharp fall-off in milk proteins through the worst of the fodder crisis.

In March, Glanbia said that milk protein levels have fallen sharply this week, reflecting the challenges in keeping a good diet in front of milking cows.

It is understood that protein levels have fallen to 3.18pc in mid-March, compared with 3.30pc this time last year.

ICMSA Dairy Committee, Ger Quain, said that the statistics confirmed that, as suspected, the severe winter and spring has resulted in a very substantial drop in milk production.

"Obviously the first and most serious consequence is in terms of farmer income, the difference in production between April this year and April 2017 will – we estimate – work out at about €15 million less dairy farmer income.

"That is without even going near the constituents and the impact that we’ll see there", noted Mr Quain. 

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He said the loss of income will be further compounded by the extra costs incurred in getting through the spring in terms of fodder and feed.

"It leaves us in a position where we can say, even at this half-way stage, that 2018 is going to be a year of challenges, stress and pressure," said Mr Quain.

For dairy farmers the fall in production was compounded by milk price cuts implemented by milk processors through the spring.

For average suppliers the cuts announced would represent a drop in income of €15,000 in a full year for a 300,000-litre supplier.

"Farmers are very disappointed that co-ops had not 'held the line' on price given weather-related problems on farms," Mr Quain contended.

Mr Quain has also taken issue with the 'special' payments being used to mask price cuts.

While he accepted suppliers wouldn't refuse these payment in the present climate, he said farmers should be paid the maximum price for their milk and not be somehow "strung along" or "kept afloat" by special payments or bonuses awarded at the processors' discretion.

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