Monday, 25 February 2013

Milk deliveries down 5.3%

Yet more evidence has recently come to light concerning the affect last year’s terrible weather had on farming. This time it is milk production which has come in to focus following figures produced by DairyCo, which is a not-for-profit organisation, funded by a levy taken from dairy farmers with the aim of providing British dairy farmers with the up to date information they need to manage their businesses profitably.

DairyCo’s, latest report concerned milk production which showed milk deliveries in the UK were down by 5.3% in January compared to the previous year. This bucks the European trend where milk production was marginally up but just goes to reinforce the impact last year’s weather had on our farmers in particular.

The problems our farmers faced were obvious. After one of the driest winter’s on record the rain started in April and did not let up for the rest of the year with this area being very badly affected in particular. The Somerset Levels, which in dry years is often the envy of those farming on the side lands of the Mendip Hills where the grass “burns up”, found itself under water and in some places the flood has now persisted for months.

The argument as to who is responsible for this flooding is a topic of hot debate with the Environment Agency (EA) being accused of not de-silting the main rivers and thereby contributing to the problem. The EA admits they have not been cleaning out the rivers but whether budgets will allow regular or extensive dredging to take place in the future remains to be seen. It may be that farmers and landowners will have to take back some of this responsibility going forward but a clear policy has yet to be agreed upon.

Obviously for those whose land has been under water for months, the impact of the weather has been devastating but even in drier areas the grass just did not grow properly. The quality of both grazing grass and that which was made in to silage was poor and as a result milk yields are down. This has been compounded by the cost of supplementary feeds such as soya or rape meal which have been extremely high and so many farmers simply could not afford to supplement the poor quality grazing and winter silage with higher quality feed.

It is appreciated everyone is probably bored of hearing farmers complaining about the weather but anyone who grows vegetables in their garden will have more than a passing sympathy with the farming community. Indeed I have heard a number of gardeners say that last year was one of the worst year’s they can remember and that they were glad they did not have to make a living out of what they had grown - but unfortunately farmers do.

James Stephen MRICS FAAV
Rural Practice Chartered Surveyor, Wells

T: 01749 683381

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