Crops have been hogging most of the weather-related headlines, but dairy farmers are warning the summer washout is having a devastating impact on their sector too.
Dairy farmers are facing increased production costs as water-logged fields force them to house cows indoors and feed them on grains instead of grass. “The grass is there in the fields, but you just can’t get to it because it has been so wet,” said NFU chief dairy adviser Rob Newbery.
This would create problems far beyond the summer, he added. “It’s not just that farmers can’t graze cows at the moment - they will be going into the winter with less silage in store at a time when grains prices are rising on the commodity markets.”
According to a new report from Kite Consulting, prices for soya, rape and wheat - key ingredients in animal feed - are currently £130, £100 and £50 per tonne more expensive than in April, meaning net production costs could increase to more than 31 pence per litre.
“The alternative of purchasing bought-in feeds at current costs will be prohibitive,” warned Michael Masters, secretary of Dairy Crest Direct, who added the weather over the next few weeks would be vital in determining to what extent silage and forage could be salvaged.
An increase in the cost of production would be terrible news for dairy farmers, some of whom are already earning less for their milk than it costs to produce as a result of two rounds of farmgate milk price cuts recently.
“The weather is adding further extra cost that farmers hadn’t planned for,” said one dairy industry source. “They’re being hit by a real double whammy.”