Are we waving goodbye to liquid milk?

Liquid milk producers are approaching a crossroads; many are weighing up the ‘pros and cons’ of milking through the winter.

As it stands, just 10% of all Irish dairy farmers – 1,800 specialist suppliers – are responsible for winter milk production in Ireland.

This number looks set to contract further in the coming years, as the premiums being offered to producers have declined significantly; mainly due to a ply by processors to undercut each other on price in order to have their products front and centre in supermarket refrigerators.

Faced with the option of either calving during the spring – at an overall lower cost of production – or during the winter months, farmers appear to be marching with the feet towards the former option.

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Although statistics show that the number of dairy calvings during the month of November (first three weeks) has increased, the number of cows calved in September and October has declined significantly.

According to figures from the ICBF, some 19,403 dairy cows calved during the month of November this year – a 3.7% jump on the same month in 2016.

However, there has been a marked reduction in the number of dairy cows calving during the months of September and October.

Back in 2016, some 25,938 dairy calvings occurred in the month of October. This dropped to just 23,829 this year. Furthermore, some 17,128 dairy cows calved in September 2016 – 1,879 fewer than the same month this year.

All-in-all, over that 11-week period, that means that dairy calvings have declined by almost 3,300 head or 5% when compared to the corresponding period in 2016.

What’s even more interesting is that fact that dairy calvings – across the entire year thus far – have actually increased by 44,146 or 3.4%.

If this trend continues, it could see a further decline in the number of liquid milk producers operating in Ireland; simply because at the costs of production, spring milk appears to be the more financially-viable option.