Farm Ireland

Wednesday 17 January 2018

Record milk supplies forces switch to once-a-day milking

Processors have reported their worst ever milk quota position.
Processors have reported their worst ever milk quota position.

Martin Ryan

Dairy farmers are converting to once-a-day milking in record numbers as processors report their worst ever milk quota position.

With individual co-ops as much as 11pc over quota by the end of July - the worst ever in over 30 years in the system - farmers are taking radical steps to head off the severity of the potentially huge super levy penalty next April.

Increasing cow numbers in herds hoping to take advantage of the end of quotas in eight months is only adding to supply problems.

Teagasc regional manager John Donworth said that farmers from Kildare to Cork have already changed from the traditional twice daily routine, and he expects the switch to escalate on a weekly basis as dairy farmers grapple with impending super levy fines.

"It is a management control measure being taken by farmers who are seriously over their quota and it is not a bad option, but there are management issues that must be considered," he said.

"There are some producers over quota who are still meal feeding, which makes no sense. They are on a hiding to nothing because they are already losing money. Boosting production in the current situation is not the thing to be doing. They are simply not doing their sums.

"Even if they are getting 40c/l, it is probably costing 27c/l to produce and they are facing a fine of 28c/l. They should take a serious look at their management and consider their options," added Mr Donworth.

He is convinced that Ireland is going to exceed its quota again this year.

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With two thirds of the quota-year's milk already in the tank, even western and northern co-ops that traditionally struggled to fill their quota pools were over by at least 3-5pc by the end of July.

While a switch to once-a-day milking will reduce production by around 30pc, the loss in milk sales is actually closer to 20pc after taking account for higher fat and protein constituents that go with the once-a-day regime.

In addition, cows generally gain condition and are healthier on the once a day system, with less demands and walking for the animals. However, one of the down sides to the switch is that is doesn't suit cows that have high somatic cell counts (SCC).

"The SCC of cows at 300,000 is going to double or treble overnight," said Mr Donworth. He believes that farmers would be better drying off these cows to avoid milk penalties from their processor.

Meanwhile. the Russian ban has left Irish cheese manufacturers nervous, according to IBEC's dairy spokesman, Cormac Healy.

He said that European dairy processors were diverting more milk into cheese following the 40pc collapse in world spot-market prices for milk powders this year.

However, cheese is one of the products hardest hit by the ban, with Russia accounting for a third of all EU cheese exports last year.

The fear now is that surplus cheese will be sold at discounted prices in fire-sales as traders aim to keep product moving.

Indo Farming