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Rodney Down: Latest milk price cut will be a game-changer for many

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A relaxing family break comes to an abrupt end for Rodney Down and family as the latest milk price cut is announced
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Rodney Down
Rodney Down
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Major surgery required after latest 'game-changing' milk price cut, says In Your Field columnist Rodney Down

A relaxing long weekend in Cornwall with a few friends was just the ticket after what is supposed to be one of our quieter months. Hay and second cut have all been done without any hold ups, while calving has just started this week. It’s always nice to finish calving the last stragglers in March but nice to start again in July as I get fed up with looking at falling bulk tank volumes.


Our short break away was brought to an abrupt end after taking a conference call from the dairy informing us of our latest price cut. This I feel is a game changer for many dairy farms. We can all make minor changes to reduce costs, but to balance the books will now require major surgery to our cost structure. I think when all our staff return from holiday we will have some blue sky thinking!


It was ironic that we took the children to a theme park on Monday that was started as a result of the introduction of milk quotas and the need to add an extra income stream. The demise of milk quotas will be far more turbulent than the introduction of them.

 

As we head towards harvest the scourge of black-grass never leaves the headlines; stacking herbicides, precision farming or the latest shiny tillage train we are told are the answer. I really am sceptical about any claim in the area of black-grass. What I do know is that one way of justifying the cows is the fact that grass into milk is still (just) the best paying break crop. Muck helps keep organic matters up, and a long rotation is perfect. This autumn will see us pull up long-term grass into wheat and grass down the remaining problem arable fields. One particular field has been into arable for 30 years, when before that it was part of a mixed farm.

 

I see parts of the USA are having a repeat of our 2012 monsoon. Looking back it wasn’t the wet that drove our prices that year but a drought in the US. So let’s hope our European neighbours can at least stay exceptionally dry as it’s about time they helped us out a bit!

 

Rodney Down, Somerset

Rodney Down farms with his wife Claire at Higher Wrantage Farm, Taunton, Somerset, with 125ha (307 acres) on a farm business tenancy and a further 323ha (800 acres) rented and contract farmed. He milks 300 Holstein Friesians and runs 350 beef cattle and followers. The farm includes 180ha (445 acres) feed wheat and 61ha (150 acres) of maize.

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