By Jenni Hobbs, The Hobbs family at Barhouse Farm.
Today was one of those days that you just think ‘why do we bother’. After a great day with Free Range Dairy discussing plans to celebrate Spring Turnout (where the cows leave their winter shed and move out into the fields for the Spring/Summer/Autumn to graze), we received another letter from our milk buyer to say they are forced to drop our base milk price once again.
We probably should get used to this, after all we’ve only had a few good years out of the last twenty where we have truly been recompensed for the milk we produce. But today I am tired of bad news. I honestly feel that our dairy industry is broken, hopefully not beyond repair but right now, broken. Surely a consumer staple, the one thing that most of the public will pop out every day to buy with their newspaper and bread has got to be worth more than £1 for a few pints! I cannot believe that a product of this importance, a natural, wholefood delivering calcium, minerals and vitamins, Omega 3, CLA and so many other goodies, can be worth so little.
It seems so unfair that farmers of similar calibre – standards of stockmanship, vision and commitment – are receiving prices ranging from as low as 15 pence a litre and up to 35 pence a litre in some cases. Same milk, similar cost of production, but a huge chasm between the farmgate price received.
My husband is 49 this year and he has been dairying most of his life. He took over from his father on our tenanted farm in Gloucestershire on the Severnvale. I believe he has plenty to give and, since he is at the younger end of the age spectrum amongst his fellow dairy farmers, he hopefully has plenty of years ahead of him in what should be an exciting and vital industry.
It’s times like this where we feel so devalued that we cannot see any light at the end of the tunnel.
So when Free Range Dairy approached us it was an exciting initiative for us. The milk that we produce is from high-welfare cows that are pasture-fed from our lush green fields for more than 180 days a year. Anyone who has tasted pasture-fed milk will know the difference.
We don’t understand why a nutritious product like milk should make a loss. We believe that dairy farmers all across the UK should be rewarded with a milk price that is above the cost of production. It is and has been a bestselling product in supermarkets for over 50 years. We have a wonderful, young herdswoman, who we want to encourage and reward. We certainly don’t want to see her lose her job just because retailers, in their infinite wisdom, have diminished the importance of a great foodstuff. Dairy is one of the basics that make up our diets. It is a staple. We should not be in this situation we have found ourselves, we shouldn’t have to march on London every few years to fight for a fair reward.
Britain’s fields and farmland are one of its biggest assets and family farms are what helps put the great into Great Britain. But we, along with other dairy farmers are going into debt, borrowing money from the bank to ensure there is milk on the shelves, in your daily cup of tea or latte from your local cafe.
If the general public want to see milk produced in a sustainable way they need to lobby their local shops, restaurants and cafes to offer Free Range milk. We want to remain traditional dairy farmers who produce milk from cows that graze. We believe Free Range Milk defines the real value in our milk and provides the opportunity for farms like ours to win proper recognition for our endeavours and the cows in our fields. Please support your local dairy farmers!
We are making a film to show how happy cows are to be turned out into the fields at springtime. Please take a look at our Crowd Funding page to see how you can help with the making of our film.
Please pledge at World Animal Protection to call for clearer labelling on milk and dairy.