While milk production in UK and Ireland is getting more difficult, dairying in Russia is thriving. Local consultant, Dr Alan McIlmoyle, McIlmoyle & Associates, Lisburn was back in Russia before Christmas, when the weather was relatively mild at minus 6° - 8° Centigrade and 6 - 9 inches (150-225mm) of snow, compared with this week, when temperatures dipped to minus 38° Centigrade. Imagine having to feed over 2500 cows with a bobcat, since silage in the diet feeder had frozen and could not be thawed out. This has been the coldest winter in Russia for over 100 years.
Capital is being spent on new, green-field sites to house large herds of up to 2600 cows plus young stock. Once built, the herd is imported as Holstein springing heifers from either Holland or Denmark. There is also investment in refurbishing existing buildings from neck tied to loose housing and cubicles, with a parlour installation to replace old pipeline systems that have long since outlived their usefulness.
Milk prices ex farm are similar to Irish prices and labour units are costed in at approximately US$350 (£200) per month on the better farms. However, on most farms, the cost of labour is crippling, since old systems, that required huge labour inputs, die hard.