How might farms’ future plans affect GB’s milk profile?

Published 19 October 16

AHDB Dairy asked farmers about their upcoming milk production plans as part of its most recent Farmer Intentions Survey. Their combined responses suggest a decrease in GB milk production is expected over the next two years.

This is largely due to farmers intending to leave milk production, with nearly 11% stating they plan to exit the industry within two years. It is partly offset by herds planning to expand – spring calving herds were most likely to plan to increase production, with 34% intending to expand compared to 18% of the overall sample. In addition, around 8% of farms were considering changing their calving pattern, with more than half of these looking at an autumn pattern and only 14% considering spring.

So how do these intended changes impact the GB milk profile? AHDB Dairy has produced a production profile for 2017/18, combining milk production and calving pattern plans from the farmers surveyed. The result is a profile that is almost unchanged in shape but sits around 3% lower than 2015/16 production.

Production intentions 19Oct16

The big question is will farms follow through with these intentions? Production for the current milk year (2016/17) is tracking 4% below the 2017/18 projection, so farms may have already cut production more than they initially intended, as a result of low milk prices. There were also a significant number of farms who were unsure about their future milk production plans and so didn’t provide a production estimate. Their final decisions are likely to depend considerably on milk price movements over the coming months, which could sway the production estimate significantly.

In summary, the shape of the monthly milk profile for GB looks unlikely to change significantly in the near future (although AHDB has further highlighted the potential benefits of changing calving pattern since this survey was carried out). However, the volume we should expect is more difficult to assess, given the uncertainty that exists within the industry following the long period of low pricing.