Signs of long-term faith in dairy

The average UK dairy farmer has faced falling income from milk since February.
The average UK dairy farmer has faced falling income from milk since February.
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Despite volatile milk prices, many dairy farmers still expect to increase production in the long-term, the results of an industry survey suggest.

The poll, carried out by agricultural consultants Promar at this year’s Livestock Event in Birmingham, found that 96 per cent of farmers surveyed expected to have more cows within the next three years.

More than 40 per cent expected to increase herd size significantly, with plans for at least 50 per cent more cows.

Promar consultant, Jonathan Hill, said: “This renewed optimism is very encouraging, especially as the industry faces the opportunities offered by the removal of quotas and increasing global demand for dairy products.

“At the same time, the Defra Sustainable Dairy Group has stated the aim of removing the UK dairy trade deficit which will require a significant increase in milk output.

“However, it is vital that expansion plans are well thought out and generate the required return.

“The key to developing a successful plan for the future shape of the business is a thorough appraisal of where you are now and the barriers to expansion.”

It remains to be seen if marketplace conditions allow for farmers to act on their intentions to grow their dairy operations.

For many, at least in the short-term, the plunging farmgate milk prices over recent months have left them out of pocket, with production costs outstripping prices in the worst cases.

Longer term, the prospects for UK dairy farmers remain favourable, according to the National Farmers’ Union (NFU), with global demand predicted to grow two per cent a year for the next decade.

Nonetheless, the current situation recently prompted the NFU’s dairy board chairman Rob Harrison to urge processors, retailers, and policy makers both in the UK and the EU to work together to safeguard the future of British dairy farming.

“Everyone needs to play their part to ensure British dairy farmers weather this global price storm,” he said.

See page 15 of The Yorkshire Post today for Arla’s message which calls on more shoppers to buy British dairy products to support local farmers.