DairyCo’s Farmer Intentions Survey for 2012 shows British dairy farmers giving a vote of confidence for the medium to long term outlook for both the industry and their own farm businesses.

36% of farmers in Britain said they intend to expand milk production over the next two years, whilst the number intending to leave the industry in the next two years has fallen to 7%. When the survey was first carried out in 2004, 22% said they intended to leave and in 2011 the figure was 13%.

This all sounds encouraging BUT the survey was conducted in March of this year – before three major processors (Dairy Crest, Wisemans and Arla) announced a two pence cut in their milk price. 7% may not be a big number but the exodus of producers from an industry that comprised 100,000 farms in 1970 continues. Still feeling confident?

Well what if the news had been different? Imagine the scenario below. Is it the stuff of fairytales or can we – the producers – really make a difference to our fortunes by creating loyalty and value in the way we farm?

“Arla today followed Dairy Crest and Wisemans and increased the price it pays to suppliers by 10 pence a litre. This move follows increasing pressure from consumers demanding that dairy farmers receive an adequate reward for the valuable role they play in feeding the nation.

Major retailers and processors have seen their grip on milk prices broken as producers work together to promote a better understanding of the way in which milk is produced on their farms. Well informed consumers are aware of how their purchasing decisions influence the lives that cows lead on our farms, the sustainability of the nation’s milk supply and the fabric of our countryside.

There is now widespread recognition of the fact that the existing network of pasture-based herds, delivering high quality milk to an increasingly health conscious population, are both efficient and economically viable. Collaboration between farmers has led to the growth of cooperatives processing milk for local markets and dairy farmers are no longer being driven to get bigger or get out, simply to allow others to profit along the supply chain.

A recent poll shows that farmer confidence is at an all time high and this is clearly illustrated by the record number of new entrants starting up dairy herds in the last twelve months. A smiling farmer said “We have always had the capacity to produce what the consumer wants from our dairy farms but, for too long, we have allowed others to reap the rewards of our endeavours. We have now won recognition for the way in which we produce milk in the UK and created real value at the farm gate”.

Few believed we would ever see the changes we have witnessed in the dairy industry over the past few years – many can remember a time when milk producers were not even paid enough to cover the costs of production! Having worked together to take charge of their destiny dairy farmers now find themselves in a very different place.”

Even if you don’t believe in fairytales, together we can make a difference. Make your voice heard – email us and tell us about your farm and your hopes for the future  .


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