Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) agriculture spokesperson, Tom Elliott MLA, has urged dairy farmers, milk processors and animal feed companies to work closely together over the coming months.

He made the call against the backdrop of further pressure coming on international milk markets.

“There is little prospect of dairy markets improving before the end of this year,” Elliott said.

“Given this challenging scenario, it is important for milk processors and meal companies to be mindful of the pressures that are already coming on dairy farmer margins.

“Obviously, milk producers will have no option to tighten their belts. But, in truth, it really is a case of everyone involved within the dairy sector cooperating in the most effective way possible.

“Dairy markets will strengthen again; the problem is that no one is in a position to predict when this will happen,” he added.

Farmers in Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland is home to 300,000 cows. It is estimated that 50% of these animals will calve during the autumn and early winter period. It is a form of milk production that requires a high level of concentrate feeding.

“Single farm payments will be arriving in producer bank accounts during the first week of September,” Elliott continued.

“This will provide a welcome boost for farmers across all the sectors. I would urge farmers that they make best use of the single payments monies as they plan for the winter ahead.”

Elliott is to meet Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) permanent secretary, Katrina Godfrey, later this week.

“We will be discussing a number of issues relating to the upcoming budget and the continuing campaign to the reduce the levels of ammonia, produced by farm businesses in Northern Ireland,” he said.

Milk apart, Tom Elliott is of the view that agriculture in Northern Ireland enters the autumn/winner period pretty much on an even keel.

“The poultry and pig sectors had been under considerable economic pressure earlier in the year,” he said.

“But the good news is that market prices have turned in a more positive direction, where both industries are concerned.”