For the third month running, UK milk production has surprised the experts by defying the cull of large numbers of dairy cows resulting from the foot and mouth crisis. According to the latest estimates, between 5% and 6% of the national dairy herd has been slaughtered but national milk output has hardly been affected. In fact it has been higher in May and June than a year ago. In April, Intervention Board data showed a modest 0.8% year on year drop in milk deliveries to dairies. In May, deliveries actually rose by 1% and provisional figures issued within the last few days show a surprising 3.8% leap in June. Two factors are probably responsible for this perverse rise in output from what should be a shrinking national dairy herd. Many farmers have clearly come through FMD so far with their herds intact and are now taking advantage of higher farm gate milk prices than a year ago and the belief that the UK will produce below its EU milk quota in the current year and that over-quota levies will not apply. Such farmers are working hard to realise the full production potential of their herds and are succeeding in boosting output. The other factor at work is that FMD animal movement restrictions are still in place and it is believed that many old cows are still being kept on farms as a result. In normal circumstances these older cows would have been culled as they reached the end of their useful working life but, currently, they are still there and are producing milk. As movement restrictions are eased in due course, this natural culling process will resume and then we may see a dip in national milk output. But at this stage no one knows when this will be. {{M/E CANNED GOODS }}