What a spring! What a summer! I think it’s fair to say we haven’t seen the likes of this for a fair ol’ while. Far too much spring rain stopped even the early birders getting cattle out and slurry spread, and now we are into two-day hay and a silage aftermath which positively crunches under foot.
Most fields are desperate for a drink and while the much out of favour cocksfoot carries on regardless, most of the rest will take some reviving. Even that notable sun worshipper, maize, is starting to stress.
But it isn’t just the weather which has been unpredictable and out of sorts. So too are the markets. Milk was plentiful in spring and the spot price dropped into the low 20p range, but at the same time commodity markets soared. Now, though, commodity markets are falling and the spot price is into the 30p range.
But with no second cut worth a button and silage being desperately trucked to hungry cows, there are increasing concerns over winter fodder stocks. Some are already devising contingency plans with reports of £800-900/acre being paid for wholecrop wheat.
It’s true things can green up very quickly once sufficient rain comes to penetrate the dust, but the trouble is that five to six weeks of peak growing time has been obliterated.
So this winter will almost certainly be an expensive one. From 2017 to April 2018 wheat has generally tracked between £140-150 per tonne, but now it’s nearer £170, and this is what sets the benchmark for most other feeds.
In hard financial terms, the cost of milk production is projected to be up by more than 1.5ppl on last year and 2.5ppl on two years ago, to its highest level for three years.
And so, for many, even a 30ppl milk price simply won’t be enough to pay the oncoming bills!