Milk production cost above 27p

EXTREMELY rough weather at the weekend, with high winds and heavy rain has seen off any remnants of snow in the South-East. It is very mild indeed and a complete change from the November and December snow and ice; a welcome change as far as I am concerned.

The few sheep we have grazing at Crouchlands are going home, having eaten all the grass, which did not last that long considering the amount available to them only a month or so ago.

It is also very wet on the clay, and it is best for both the sheep and our land that they move off now that the green pastures are in danger of turning brown.

The days are getting longer, especially the evenings, and with much of the winter still to endure, one still can’t help feeling (especially after such an early and cold snap) that spring is on the way.

It feels a bit spring-like at the moment, and as far as I’m concerned it cannot come soon enough. Elin our eldest daughter has now returned to Australia, where it is of course summer, but that in itself does not mean easy weather.

Australia is a vast country, and as we all know it can be pretty tough, and it usually is in one province or another.

Spare a thought for the Queensland farmers, who have endured 10 years of drought, and this year the crops were looking to be very good indeed after some rain, and now huge areas are flooded and much of the crop destroyed.

These are some of the worst floods on record, and many dairy farmers are affected, with 40-50 dairy farms cut off completely with no milk collection.

The record river heights have resulted in livestock losses, but a recovery plan is well under way, and a flood relief fund has been launched by the Queensland Dairyfarmers Organisation. They certainly need all the help they can get.

n The cows are milking well here at Crouchlands, which is just as well considering the price of feed, although we had bought forward for the winter which takes the worst out of the cost.

It is incredible to see wheat prices at over £200 a tonne and still rising, which of course lifts all other energy feed prices.

This is making life very difficult for all livestock farmers with pigs and poultry on the front line, consuming vast quantities of high energy feed with the full effect of the increases taking its toll; dairy cows which are now all housed for the winter also consuming a fair amount of cereals too, with the beef farmer incurring similar costs and even sheep farmers at this time of year as they supplement feed in-lamb ewes.

Dairy Co (our levy body) has released figures showing that the cost of milk production has gone up by around 2p per litre, taking total costs to above 27p. Given that the milk buyers are paying about 24.5p per litre, with all Dairy Co’s calculations showing that milk for cheese should be 30p and all other milk at over 28p, once again the British dairy farmer is being punished by those who put increasing their market share and competing for more business above the needs of their suppliers.

Looking at Europe, the October average price was 30p, and we are in 23 position, with only Slovenia, Czech Republic and Latvia receiving less.

Lithuania, Poland, Hungary and Slovakia are receiving more, and of course the other top five producers, ourselves, Italy, Germany, France and the Netherlands are all well above 30p per litre.

It is extraordinary that Ireland for example, who need to export 80 per cen of their production are even higher, whilst our milk buyers pursue so called ‘value added’ and ‘branded’ products, all of which sell at (or well below at the moment) commodity prices.

This is a strategic problem, and if commodity prices stay high, the UK will continue to operate in a totally separate market, where retailers discount these dairy products, and the milk buyers have no means of leveraging or increasing the price by producing products which would return far higher prices from the commodity market.

New Zealand is on 25p for heavens sake, exporting their total production on to the international market, whilst we supposedly have a great opportunity in the UK as we import 40 per cent of our needs as the British production continues to shrink; unsurprisingly.

If the Government want farmers to move away from subsidies, they are going to have to tackle the supply chain, and the abuse of power that takes place, daily.

Returning to the theme of poor service, I can report that having been told that a waiting list until the end of January for heating fuel, unless he paid £1 a litre, in which case a delivery could be made the very next day, our AD man requested, on my advice a very small delivery the next day to see him through the Christmas period.

Unfortunately, the minimum order for a £1 per litre was 400 litres, which he declined. This week, not only is delivery now within three days (what happened to all those other people waiting for fuel?), but the price has also dropped substantially, which absolutely proves that a complete racket takes place when people are at their most vulnerable.

A new example of poor service last week was the bank. With my eldest daughter, Elin, spending Christmas and New Year at home, before flying back to Sydney this week, she was sorting all the things that are still here, and came across an earthenware saving pot (where you fill it with your coins and then smash it when it’s full).

Having carefully made a hole in the bottom of this pot (it was a gift from a friend many years ago and she did not want to smash it), much time was spent putting all the different coins in bags (this was a large pot!).

The local bank seemed to be the logical place to now have this cash changed into notes, and proper bags were handed over so that the various bags of coins could now be sorted by Elin, to the bank’s requirements.

When these were then passed over, the first question was ‘Have you an account with us?’. Well given that she lives in Australia, the answer was no, and it would have ended there if Lorayne had not been with her, who did have an account.

Although the bank was empty, and all the work had been done for her, the cashier was still muttering that she should not be doing this.

Maybe someone could write in and tell us where we went so badly wrong? Where do you take savings these days? It’s a poor message for those who have taken the trouble.