Dominic Naylor: Words fail me on Arla, but harvest prices are up

OUR In Your Field series, which charts the ups and downs of seven farmers around the country, focuses on what’s been happening on-farm in East Yorkshire.

I didn’t bother going to the Dairy Event – I didn’t have the stomach for it. A friend of mine went, and observed there were very few new Discoveries on the car park.

It’s a fairly basic but good barometer for an industry with insufficient profit for reinvestment. I suspect if you went to the ‘Supermarket Event’, the place would be rammed full of Range Rover Sports.

I’ve nothing but praise for my milk buyer Chestnut Dairies. The family-run Yorkshire business is trying every avenue to get our milk into every shop. But if the shops in question continue to view milk as a basic commodity to be sold at a rock bottom price, then the future looks bleak.

As for Arla’s proposed producer investment levy of 4ppl, words fail me. Haven’t we been here before? Sounds like protection money to me. If you don’t pay, we might not buy your milk and you’ll go bust.

And if you do pay, we’ll pay you just above the cost of production so that your slide into insolvency nicely coincides with the opening of the tap on the very large stainless steel pipe coming out of the Channel tunnel, which you’ve paid for.

Harvest now history

Harvest 2010 has been consigned to the history books. Yields were down 12 per cent but with prices 50 per cent above the budget, the arable side of the business is looking good. As a net importer of grain however, the significant rise in feed prices is a major concern to our predominantly livestock business.

I’ve bought 50 per cent of the pig feed forward which should at least give me some security over my costs of production. As for the dairy feed, I’ve bought through to April. Let’s hope milk prices rise to pay for it. One of our feed companies, GP Feeds, has an excellent price comparison on its website which I’ve found useful.

On the sheep front, the ewe condition scores have levelled nicely at 3 and the tups are heading for 4. I spread 6.8 units per hectare (17 units/acre) of nitrogen on the grassland to provide a wedge to flush the ewes, and the tups have been getting cake since the start of September.

The ‘pedigree’ Texels’ feet are causing me concern – that’s breeding for you. Consequently I like to buy tups off farm. I always ask whether they’ve been stuffed with feed and the answer is invariably ‘no, don’t give ‘em a thing’. But the tups don’t lie and the subsequent charge towards us tells me these boys are like foie gras geese.



Dominic Naylor is farm manager at Bishop Burton College, near Beverley. The 400ha (1,000 acre) mixed farm on the edge of the Wolds, comprises 280ha (700 acres) owned and 120ha (300 acres) rented. Run as a commercial enterprise, it has dairy, pigs, sheep and arable.

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