Co-ops: Don’t Kick Farmers While They’re Down – Hold March Milk Prices

IFA National Dairy Committee Chairman Tom Phelan has warned co-ops that they must not kick farmers while they’re down by cutting milk prices, but must instead utilise some of the strongly increased 2017 profits to show their understanding of the extreme hardship and stress levels on farms in the only way that will count for dairy farmers: by holding the March milk price.

Farmers appreciate the support co-ops have given through various fodder initiatives. However, the goodwill generated by these moves will be utterly destroyed in farmers’ minds by any price cut.

“Farmers have had to contend with unprecedented hardship this spring, after what was an early and long winter. Most have run short or altogether out of fodder and are only now – over a month late – seeing ground temperatures that will hopefully allow for some grass growth in the coming days. The stress among farmer is approaching burn-out levels as they have got no relief since the busy calving season,” he warned.

“Teagasc have put the reduced profitability for each day that the cows are not grazing at between €2.20 and €3.00 per cow. Hence for a 100-cow herd, a three-week delay in turn out, for example, would cost the farmer around €5,500. The true nature of the losses may be greater as some herds have lost more than three weeks’ worth of grazing since last autumn. Also, they will certainly rise further in the longer term, as fodder production capacity, cow condition and possibly cow fertility also suffer,” he added.

“And that’s only the economics. The human costs must also be taken into account,” he said.

“In these exceptionally harsh circumstances, farmers need to feel truly supported by their co-ops’ utilising some of the profits they made last year to hold the March milk price despite lower market returns,” Tom Phelan concluded.

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