NI feed trade is supporting farmers

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Feed compounders in Northern Ireland are working closely with their milk producer customers to help them survive the current crisis that is unfolding within the dairy sector, according to Devenish Nutrition managing director Owen Brennan.

“And one way they are doing this is through the extension of credit,” he said.

“Monies owing to the north’s 50 or so feed manufacturers currently amounts to £150m. And this figure will almost certainly be added to, in the light of the difficulties facing farmers at the present time.”

Brennan made these comments while speaking at the Dairy Summit event, hosted by the Ulster Farmers’ Union at the end of August. He confirmed that animal feed manufacturing output in Northern Ireland amounts to 2.3m tonnes annually. Of this total figure, 1.0m tonnes are accounted for by the dairy sector.

“Compounders are fully aware of the tremendous economic pressures on dairy farmers at the present time and cost savings must be made. But these must be strategically thought through. Cutting costs, just to save money in the here and now, will create major long term problems for those farmers taking this course of action,” he said.

Brennan pointed out that dairy farmers must never compromise on three core aspects to their businesses: milk output, milk components and dairy cow fertility.

“And compound animal feeds should be used strategically in tandem with high quality forages with these objectives in mind,” he said.

“Grazed grass and silage will remain the cheapest and best value for money feed sources that are available to Irish dairy farmers. But concentrates, which are manufactured to the highest standards, also have a key role to play when it comes to ensuring that the nutritional requirements of the modern dairy cow are met in full.”

Brennan predicted that the world’s dairy markets will start to improve again at some stage.

“And when this does happen, milk producers in NI want to be best placed to take advantage of this opportunity. However, short term feed management decisions taken now that impact particularly on the health attributes of dairy cows will not allow this to happen,” he said.

“We know that hastily taken management decisions that compromise the health status of cows will lead to long term production, milk quality and fertility-related problems within herds. These issues can subsequently require many years to resolve.”