The UK dairy industry has been warned that it must act quickly to prevent a milk shortage.
Kite Consulting told a recent Dairy Industry Association conference that unless the issue of seasonality payments for milk was tackled, UK dairy farmers would continue to switch to spring calving which could lead to milk shortages at certain times of the year.
Kite said that herds of spring calves could produce milk 3p per litre cheaper than farmers who provide a level supply through the year, and 5ppl cheaper than those who autumn calve.
Managing partner John Allen said that if the problem were ignored, there would be huge milk surpluses in spring followed by shortages during October and November.
Even the relatively protected market for liquid milk could be at risk and may have to be supplemented by imports.
"There is a model for what happens when dairy farmers continually get low prices and, in response, move to cheaper spring calving," Allen told delegates. "It's called New Zealand, and they only produce milk for nine months of the year."
The three main producer co-operatives ­ Dairy Farmers of Britain, First Milk and Milk Link ­ have issued a statement underlining their determination to tackle the issue. The co-ops are proposing payments which more accurately reflect market returns.