Cheese prices will rise as UK heatwave hits grazing and feed
The summer heatwave is set to drive up artisan cheese prices as dairy farmers struggle with big increases in costs.
The prolonged dry weather, which started in May, has resulted in scorched grazing pastures across the country and farmers have been forced to break into winter fodder supplies to keep animals alive and productive.
Yields of silage and hay, which are vital for feeding animals during the winter, have also been drastically reduced by the heat. Feed prices are rocketing on the back of the shortage, according to cheesemakers, with serious implications for prices.
Cheesemaker and farmer Roger Longman, who co-owns White Lake Cheese in Somerset and has a herd of 700 goats, said hay costs had almost doubled from £70 to £120 a tonne in July, while bedding straw had rocketed from £70-a-tonne to £300.
“It’s a big worry for us,” he said. “Milk yields are down 10%. It’s too hot for the animals to eat. They just sit there panting. A lot of farmers have been trying to hold on in the hope that it will rain, but it’s getting to the point where they will have to buy in feed just to keep animals alive. It’s something that is affecting the whole of Europe, so milk prices will have to go up, and this will filter through to cheese prices.”
Lincolnshire-based Cote Hill Cheese was forced to spend £10,000 on fodder for its cows in July and August because of a lack of grass. The farm also had to use its own silage that would normally be saved for winter, while it saw a big drop in the amount of grass it could harvest from its land.
“We normally get 400 tonnes (of grass for silage) with the first cut in May, but it was more like 275 tonnes, and the second cut in June was around 40 tonnes when it should be 200 tonnes,” said co-owner Michael Davenport. “We didn’t put [cheese] prices up last year, but will have to seriously look at that in January.”
The NFU called an emergency summit with Defra, the Environment Agency and other bodies last month to address “the crippling impact” of “tinderbox” conditions on British farms. Environment secretary Michael Gove said afterwards that he would do “whatever it takes” to maintain food supplies.