IT LOOKS like milk producers are in for a rocky winter driven in part by a favourable summer of milk production driving concern from some processors that there's too much of the white stuff about.

A year ago, the milk industry looked like a relatively steady ship, but it has recently entered choppy waters and what is now evident is that some processors have prepared themselves for the milk 'harvest' that accrued from having more grass about and are sticking with current pricing schedules.

However, it's hard to get away from the dichotomy between the actions of First Milk and those of Muller. Within the past 10 days, it looks as if Muller is imposing a price cut by way of its proposal to put in place a tiered haulage charge structure to many of its 230 producers from next February, as well as asking its 14 North-east producers to find an alternative buyer.

Those in the North-east must feel a sense of abandonment in contrast to that of First Milk, which this week reiterated its intention to haul the milk from its members in Kintyre to the Central Belt (at least) at no extra charge, following the collapse of talks with producers in buying out the creamery. It is also, for the moment, standing by its current price schedule.

The only consolation for milk producers is that they should have plenty of fodder in the clamp and that grain prices are much lower than last year, so feed costs on a year to year basis should be at least leaning in their favour.

That said – you wouldn't want to be harvesting maize this back-end!

A soggy state

THE WET autumn will also have a knock-on effect for beef producers and arable men.

For the beef men it will be poignant that at just a time when they need to save costs, most of their cattle will have to come inside because of the weather – and that's despite there still being plenty of grass about.

For arable farmers, it looks as though some acres that were due to be planted with winter crops will now have to revert to spring planting. This raises the question that always arises when there's an obvious swing to spring barley, what's the malting trade going to be like? So, there's already some bad vibes about what the trade for that will be next harvest.

As this is one of Scotland's biggest crops, then there are some serious implications for next year's incomes. That said, good old Mother Nature has a habit of changing things around – as farmers in Australia have been finding out to their cost (see our View from the East column, by Dr Keith Dawson, on page 24).