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Phil Latham: A great family holiday but frustration at milk price drop

Insights

For the first time in years we have enjoyed a summer holiday, with a week’s break at Watergate Bay in Cornwall.

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It was fantastic to get away and enjoy some time with my young family. We even managed to bump into Prince Charles and shake hands with Camilla on the way to the beach, though had I known I probably would not have been half naked with a wet suit tied around my waist.

 

Since getting back it has been busy again. Our barley harvest is complete and we have managed to do another 12 hectares (30 acres) of haylage, getting the grass baled and wrapped just before the weekend’s rain. The timing proved excellent as it meant I could go to Nantwich show mid-week while the grass dried out and CarFestNorth, at Oulton Park, with clear conscience at the weekend.

 

Fortunately we passed our radial TB test. I have been mystified recently to find out the humaneness test of ‘time to die’ in the TB trial measured time of shooting badgers to end of post-mortem twitching. I think if you have seen cows shot you know this lacks credibility as death actually occurs much quicker.

 

Grass growth

The dry weather meant grass growth had slowed up in the last few weeks and it looked like we would have insufficient growth to warrant doing a third cut which I was quite happy about, but now it has rained, growth has speeded up and we look like we are growing a surplus again. Hopefully next year we will have a better balance between stocking rate and grass growth as we head back towards 400 cows.

 

We have had another letter from the milk buyer notifying us of a milk price drop and I am frustrated by the news. I know we cannot buck global market trends but I am still convinced dairy farmers are unable to access a fair percentage of the available margin on milk due to the fragmented way we sell it.

 

As there is no appetite in industry to change this, I will have to focus on controlling the things I can and it will be interesting later this month to benchmark our business against others working with Evolution Farming to see how we are doing. I have a feeling I am in for a barrage of abuse from grazing fundamentalists, but there is something very sensible about simplifying the systems we use and focusing on profit not production.

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