Is 2016 really that bad? 1

Milk Volumes 

There has been plenty in the press about the fall in UK milk volumes – figures like 10% down on last year are quite startling. Yet sometimes national figures can be difficult to interpret, when market forces combined with farm factors all getting very complicated. Here is a look at some NMR figures to look over the fence and compare South West dairy farms, farms more likely to be experiencing the same issues. These are a better way to know how nutritional performance is across many farms. Thanks to NMR for the data.

On the right are average yield figures for the 2 regions in the South West on the NMR data. Straight away we see 2 things – 2012 was a very bad year and 2015 was a very good year. The other years are very similar – what we might call average years. This is different from the current impression of 2016 as a ‘low’ year.

Is 2016 really that bad?

Is 2016 just average?

Important to note is that 2016 is not finished yet. On this look at trends through the years we again see 2015 as exceptionally good, rather than 2016 very bad. Average production for this year is certainly behind last year by all measures. Looking closely at 2016 we see it started high and has been declining so that monthly production by the end of the year may well be below that 6 year average, but not by a lot.

In summary cows are milking on recorded herds at an unexciting level – but its only average. The reason for the difference to last year will be forage quality on many of these farms – the levels of indigestible fibre we have been testing have been higher as a result of the growing season. Some farms buck the trend and avoid these nutritional constraints, and there is plenty we can do to help, but the weather affecting crop growth will always make each year different.

This does beg the question how processors have made such a drama out of a good year followed by an ‘average’ one? Weather influence on forage quality is not unexpected! Obviously there are many other industry/economic/market forces affecting the national volumes but current production does not seem to be unprecedented in any way.