For the first time ever milk production in Northern Ireland has topped 150 million gallons in a 12-month period.
In the year ended March 31, 1969, production stood at 152,107 million gallons or some 8½ million gallons more than in the previous year.
The annual report of the Northern Ireland Milk Marketing Board points out that as dairy herd numbers remained almost constant, most of the growth in production was accounted for by a phenomenal increase in milk yield per cow, rising by 40 gallons to nearly 800 gallons annually.
It is interesting to note, the report adds, that most of the increased milk production in Northern Ireland in recent years has come about as the result of increased productivity through increased yields per cow, accompanied by a fall in the number of milk producers. During the year producers in Northern Ireland fell by 215 to 15,568.
Payments to producers for the Board rose to £22,476,946, an increase of £962,858. Returns to the Board during the year were under pressure due to the extremely poor prices for milk and milk products, the result of dumped and subsidised imports from outside the United Kingdom and the fall in the sales of bottle milk, the first in 11 years, largely occasioned by the Government’s decision to end the supply of milk free to secondary schools from September 1968.
Bottled milk sales at just over 43 million gallons were marginally down on the previous year. The Board estimates that the loss of school milk amounted to about 550,000 gallons. If it had not been for this loss, and taking into account increases in other sectors of the bottled milk market, the year would have seen increases in overall sales in line with those in recent years.
The amount of milk used for dairy products rose by nearly nine million gallons to 108.9 million gallons. The demand for milk for milk products such as fresh cream, evaporated and condensed milk, chocolate crumb, and yoghurt, was reasonably good. However, the cheese market was threatened with collapse due to dumped and subsidised imports, and despite the Government measures to stabilise the position the price for cheese in Northern Ireland fell drastically.
The same was true of butter where prices were the lowest for seven years. Government action in the butter field at the year’s end helped to ease the strain on prices which had also affected the milk powder market.
This section of the report sums up: “As far as the manufacturing milk market is concerned the year under review was one which everyone concerned will wish to forget as quickly as possible.”
One really bright feature of the year’s operations, states the report, was the success of the Ulster cheese campaign to increase the sale of locally made cheese in Northern Ireland. Sales rose by no less than 60 per cent and this, together with the continuing success of Ulster yoghurt and new products like cream cheese and cottage cheese and Yogpops, provided a base for building upon the Ulster housewife’s obvious preference for Ulster dairy produce.
Rapid strides were made during the year in the collection of milk from the farm in bulk tankers. Now 16 per cent of Ulster’s milk is brought to the creameries in this fashion.