The usual milking season goes from about October to May and over winter farmers were paid a premium if they decided to calve in Autumn and supply milk during the winter period.
Fonterra chair John Wilson said the increased investment in the mozzarella plant at Clandeboye and the UHT cream plant in Waikato was driving demand.
Fonterra was currently out and about talking to farmers about providing winter milk, said Mr Wilson.
“These are decisions taken 18 months out as farmers start thinking about adapting their systems.
“It doesn’t work for all of our farmers, it only works for some and if they choose to milk their cows over the winter then we’ve certainly got demand for that product.”
Mr Wilson said farmers milking through winter were paid accordingly.
“We will be rewarding our farmers based on what the market return is and also getting a strong return to the cooperative.”
Fonterra’s manufacturing base was in place to be able to manufacture large volumes of milk at the peak of the pasture curve in Spring, giving Fonterra more milk across the season to put into higher value products, Mr Wilson said.
“So we pay a price for our normal milk over the curve but we encourage those farmers that want to invest in their own farming systems – we’ll pay them that premium over the winter period.
Mr Wilson said Fonterra did not have a target for winter milk production and it was too early to know how much milk the cooperative would collect.
New contract for farmers
This year Fonterra has a new 60-day contract tailor-made for winter milkers, Mr Wilson said.
“We’ve changed the way we price that milk for farmers so it’s specifically over that winter milk period so farmers can make that decision.”
Waikato dairy farmer Chris Falconer said he has calculated that by milking through this winter he would make an extra 60 cents a kilogram of milk solids for the year, over his whole milk production.
For his farm, winter milking worked well, he said.
“We grow more grass in June than we do through the summer, so it’s a good fit for our grass supply.