Farm Ireland

Thursday 23 November 2017

Superlevy fears grow with surge in milk supplies

Declan O'Brien

Declan O'Brien

There are growing fears that Ireland could be closing in on a superlevy bill as a continued surge in milk supplies through February has pushed the country closer to its milk quota limit.

Most of the main co-ops report a massive hike in milk supplies over the past few weeks.

Lakeland Dairies milk supplies are running about 20pc ahead of last February's levels, although the co-op is currently running at some 5pc under annual quota.

It's a similar story in Kerry, where a 25pc lift in supplies is expected through March. While the dairy is still 35m litres under quota, this figure has closed by 10m litres since the end of January.

Town of Monaghan reports a 15pc hike in deliveries this month but the co-op is still well under quota for the year.

With temperatures and grass growth levels improving, the fear is that milk supplies will increase further over the next four weeks.

The latest figures from the CMMS show that 94,000 calves were registered up to the week ending February 18. This would suggest that greater numbers of cows are calving earlier this year.

Ireland stood 1.88pc under quota at the end of January and the consensus was that the country would avoid a superlevy fine.

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However, industry sources are now more nervous about getting in under the national supply limit.

Meanwhile, the Agricultural Consultants Association (ACA) and XLVets have warned farmers struggling to stay under quota against the complete elimination of concentrates from dairy diets.

"Elimination of all concentrates from the diet of a spring calving dairy herd in the post-calving period is not advisable in most circumstances. This is particularly important for first and second lactation cows. Thin cows in negative-energy balance are not healthy, fertile or profitable," the ACA and XLVets statement warned.

The group advised farmers seeking to cut supplies to:

  • Reduce lactating cow numbers;
  • Feed milk to calves, and perhaps other livestock;
  • Reduce concentrate protein content. Feeding a low protein (10pc) concentrate to milking cows will maintain body condition but will reduce milk output by up to 3.0 litres per day depending on the protein content of the forage fed;
  • Reduce concentrate feeding levels with caution to avoid excessive loss of condition;
  • Milk once per day with careful attention to mastitis and Somatic Cell Count (SCC) issues;
  • Store milk produced in March for feeding to calves in April.

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