Question time for dairy farmers

CMC Question Time“Making the most of 2016”

milk meeting

On Wednesday 27th January, Crediton Milling, dairy and cattle feed producers in Devon, hosted a question time for dairy farmers. The format of the evening, was a panel of 5 panellists heavily involved in the dairy industry along with a chairman. The panel received pre-vetted questions all associated with the dairy industry and the commencing year. The panel were as follows…

  • Chairman  Ian Harvey – Finance Director Dairy Crest Direct and Launceston Dairy Farmer.
  • Di Wastenage – Wastenage farms run 1,000 cows across 1600 acres at four units in Devon and Cornwall with a heavy emphasis on grazing. They are the current Farmers Weekly “Dairy Farmers of the Year“ & “Farmers of the Year”.
  • Simon Abdilla – Agriculture Manager for Lloyds Bank and ha. He has spent the last 14 years in the Agriculture sector and recently spent 9 years in the Launceston/ Tamar Valley area. Now looking after a portfolio of 90 larger farm businesses in South and East Devon.
  • Richard Stanbury Consultant at WD Consultants. General manager of Dairy Crest Direct with circa 370 dairy farm members. Previous Chairman of the SW healthy livestock initiative and CBT mutual
  • Phil Cork Head of Milk Supply, Crediton Dairy. Formerly Milk Link head of membership and Arla’s senior agricultural manager for the South.
  • Daniel Forrester Director of Penbode Vets.  Large animal vet specialising in Bovine reproduction.

The evening was well attended by approx. 85 farmers all wanting to hear the panel’s outlook on the dairy industry in 2016. There was a disheartening start to the debate, with the thought that milk price shows no sign of rising for another 12-18 months, and we are not at the lowest point yet.  Milk price, of course was the hot topic, and how can farmers survive. The panel believed planning ahead and budgeting was the first port of call, as well as understanding and meeting your milk contract criteria. Rather than cutting costs, efficiency was spoken about, as well as remembering past innovations which have always worked rather than always embracing new technology.

Succession and involving the younger generation was spoken about, and how you should involve them in decision making, as they may have some good ideas. The big word of the night was ‘Collaboration’ and something the panel think we will all hear more about in the future. Although the dairy industry is hardly attractive right now, there are many youngsters still wanting to get in to dairy farming. With no milk contracts available, the panel believe that collaboration between a retiring farmer and a young farmer will still allow the younger generation to be a part of the industry. The panel were worried that this dark time for the dairy industry will deter the youngsters, so as an industry we must encourage and help them before we lose them.

The general opinion, was until supply drops, milk price won’t rise. UK milk production was up another 3% on last year, despite the milk price. Although there are herd dispersals every week, the milk will only go in another farmer’s tank and that is the problem. The other main problem is that farmers are attempting to produce more milk at a lower milk price, to reduce the drop on the milk cheque. There was a concern if farmers attempt to drop their milk yields there could be possible problems to come with this including poor fertility and health problems. Milk quotas were mentioned and the panel felt that they should be brought back in to control the milk supply.

Our thanks goes to the panel for their time and thoughts on what looks to be a challenging year ahead. It was pointed out that on a 3-5 year average, this year will just be a blip; with downs, there are ups.

We held this event in Launceston and plan to host this in other parts of the South West in 2016.