Melton farmers and dairies voice concern over falling milk yields in summer heat

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Latest news EMN-170607-104524001
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The long, hot summer is reducing the amount of milk being produced by Melton’s dairy farmers, and that could affect the production of cheese for the Christmas season at the borough’s dairies.

The regional branch of the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) said this week that milk yields had been hit because cows had suffered heat stress as temperatures soared into the 30s.

This has followed the late spring, which meant cows were housed for longer in the colder weather before being sent out to grass much later than normal, also adversely affecting milk production.

The issue has been compounded by many farms having to break into their winter food supplies to feed their animals in the absence of grass growing during the dry spell.

Local dairies said this week they were concerned and they are monitoring the situation with more hot weather predicted for the next fortnight.

A spokesperson for the East Midlands NFU said: “We are urging milk buyers to be mindful of the impact a sustained period of dry weather will have on their suppliers and work collaboratively with them to manage milk yield and quality challenges as they arise.”

A local dairy farmer, who declined to be named, said that milk yields seemed to be holding up reasonably, so his supply to his buyer is being maintained at the moment.

However, he is concerned that farm profitability will be hit this year as prices for cattle feed and straw are likely to rise.

Both fodder availability and price will mean a squeeze on dairy farm incomes across the board, the farmer said, not just this winter, but on into 2019, too.

Long Clawson Dairy will shortly begin producing its cheese for the Christmas season, which traditionally makes up 30 per cent of their entire annual sales.

Stilton and Leicestershire Red are two of their big sellers.

Clawson’s milk is supplied by 43 dairy farms within a 25-mile radius of the village, with most of them in the Vale of Belvoir and around Melton.

Kim Kettle, the dairy’s production director and farm liaison manager, told the Melton Times: “We are well aware of the situation with dairy farmers, we are concerned and we are closely monitoring the situation.

“If the hot weather continues it could have an adverse impact on us - the next two weeks will be vital.

“We are starting to make our Christmas cheeses so this is an important time for us.”

Billy Kevan, manager at Colston Bassett Dairy, which has made Stilton and Shropshire Blue cheeses in the Vale of Belvoir for more than a century, said: “From our own results, the composition of the milk has changed due to the prolonged dry spell and this has in turn reduced our cheese yield.

“Other than this, the only factor that has changed is that milk price has gone up due to overall milk production being down.”