Well, seems like the weather has been trying to play catch up and giving us all the rain we ‘missed’ over the summer in the last few days.

In some respects, it does seem quite apt, that in the run up to the COP26 meeting we should be suffering such extreme weather.

Although there is a bit of erosion on a couple of the fields of winter wheat, for the most part they are looking in reasonable order. And the grass reseeds from earlier in the autumn are in great shape, no doubt helped by the really mild weather.

This year was probably the latest we’ve ever had cows out, with their final day out at grass being only 10 days ago. In fact, as yet, we’ve only just brought in a small number of the youngstock, and hopefully they can get quite a bit longer outside as the near-term forecast is only really showing light rain.

Unfortunately, something else which seems to have been enjoying the mild, humid conditions are the flies. Given that we’re now into November, they are still present in quite large numbers which certainly isn’t to the liking of the milk cows. We’re running the fans in the parlour not to keep the cows cool, but in the hope that the air movement distracts the flies.

Even with the irritation from the flies the cows continue to milk well on their winter rations (See table). Thankfully, quite a bit of the ration is homegrown (eg beans and wheat) this year which is keeping a bit of a lid on the feed costs as feeds like maize and golden flake have both risen by around 40% since this time last year. Overall feed costs (if we appropriately price in home grown feed) have risen about 2p/litre to just over 13p/litre.

And this is part of a whole range of price increases which are either affecting us right now, or are clearly headlined to be coming our way in the next 12 months.

Just looking at the obvious ‘big ticket’ items – Diesel is 75% up on this time last year. We put our staff’s wages up by 5% last month (to help with retention) and will have to put them up again by 6% at the start of next year to match the increase in NMW not forgetting the extra 1.25% that we as employers will have to pay for the Health and Social Care levy come April.

Thankfully, we renewed our electricity contract back in August but that was bad enough with a 25% increase over last year. I spoke to Go Low Carbon, the brokers that arranged that contract, and the equivalent deal today would be 60-70% higher than it was just a few months ago. This alone adds 0.4ppl to the cost of production.

I’m glad that we went ahead with our solar panels earlier this year. In the last 7½ months (and granted it was probably the sunniest summer we’re ever likely to have) the 30kW installation has produced over 27kWh of electricity (85% of which we utilised) and is well on target to achieve payback in year five.

Let's not forget nitrogen fertiliser which has seen probably the biggest increase of all – if you can get it! We’ve managed to secure probably about half of what we need at twice what we paid last year, so I guess things could be worse but there are going to be some tough decisions to make as far as where to get the best benefit of it.

Of course, the biggest unknown is what will happen to cereal prices in the year ahead as clearly the high fertiliser price is likely to drive lower crop yields and yet higher feed prices.

Overall, this all points towards a need for a big increase in milk price and although we are starting to see some upward movement, it is glacially slow, with retailers seemingly determined to keep a lid on price increases.

While that might seem sustainable for them in the short term, I think it is likely to be storing up bigger problems ahead. It seems likely that farmers will cut back production, especially as the cast cow price is reasonably attractive at the moment and the milk production tap is more difficult to open than it is to shut.