NFU dairy board chairman Michael Oakes has been experiencing the impact of the recent heatwave which has hit the farming industry hard.
Following an incredibly wet start to the spring, we have gone from one extreme to another. We’re already into August and I can’t remember when we last saw any significant rainfall on the farm these past few months apart from the occasional thunderstorm and heavy downpour. The impacts have been hugely challenging for many farms across the country.
For me the situation is serious and it’s getting worse by the day. We are using our winter feed already and there are concerns about the availability of fodder going into the autumn. Normally this time of the year is the cheapest time to produce milk – but already we’re half way through the stocks we’ve built up for the winter months. So far I’ve spent £40,000 just on buying crops off a neighbour and we will have to do more before the year ends.
In future if this kind of weather volatility becomes more common the farming industry may have to seriously consider investing in infrastructure, such as better water storage, to ensure we are capable of getting through periods like this. But that’s something we need to do together - as an industry and working with Government.
The NFU’s recent drought summit was a real positive especially to have the Secretary of State present. It was great that he stayed for the entirety of the meeting hearing from the NFU and representatives from the farming community about the impact this weather has been having across the country.
Galvanising support and increasing the understanding of the issue amongst the general public has been key. The NFU media team have worked really hard to get this message out, sending an operational note to all its national and regional broadcast, print and trade contacts in the UK. The response was phenomenal with the drought summit attracting headlines and coverage throughout the day from major networks including the BBC, ITV, Sky News, Financial Times and the Daily Telegraph, to name just a few. I also had BBC Midlands Today out on the farm, discussing the impact of the drought on dairy farmers across the country.
The NFU will continue to monitor the situation as the year progresses and step up calls for action and support as needed; already we have seen abattoirs reporting an increase in the number of cull cows being sent through the system which will have an effect on production and forecasts moving forwards.
We are continuing to talk to milk buyers and urging them to be mindful of the impact the weather we are experiencing is having on their supply base and the need to work with producers as we go into the winter to manage yield and quality challenges.
I think this warm weather period should be a wake-up call for all of us. It really is a reminder that we should not take food production for granted. It is vital moving forwards that farmers have access to risk management options to help manage volatility and ensure the nation continues to have access to high quality, safe and affordable British food.