How did 2018 weather affect milk yields?

Published 22 January 19

As we move into 2019 we are able to look back and assess the impact that the extreme weather in 2018 had on dairy farmers, particularly during the drought. From a first look at Promar Milkminder data, it appears that yields were running in line with a basic average of the last five years during the drought, then picked up once the weather broke.

However, AHDB analysis of long-term trends shows that yields can be expected to improve by 1.5% a year, due to genetic improvements of the milking herd. By adjusting the last 5 years’ data to account for this improvement, we can better see the impact of the drought. Yields were running behind what we could otherwise expect through most of the season so far, only getting back on track in October. GB milk production for the season to November was running 21 million litres (0.25%) behind 2017/18, with the deficit coming from April, July and August.

2401 promar yields

Yields flattened out and then started to improve from August onwards. Although the drought started to break from this point, there was also a step increase in concentrate use compared to the average, which helped improve yields.

2401 promar concentrate

Mild weather in November began to reverse the trend, allowing farmers to reduce concentrate use and increase share of milk from forage compared with the five-year average. As the weather has stayed relatively mild until at least mid-January, this trend has hopefully continued. This should go at least some way to counterbalancing farmer costs after the expense of increased concentrate usage during the drought.