It is absolutely right that dairy farmers should receive a realistic price for their product, whether it is milk, cheese, yoghurt or anything else.
It is illegal to buy a product at less than the cost of production in France and some parts of the USA.
If this is so in Europe, then maybe those rules should apply in Britain too. So with recent negotiations and the prospect of Government stepping in to underpin the regulations that need to be applied to procurers, the future should look better for dairy farmers.
However, in the press recently, cereals are going to cost 2p per litre more this year. How are farmers going to cover that 2p? The answer is to feed less cereals.
When quotas came in, they still needed to make a living, but couldn’t afford to go over quota and be penalised. They ended up feeding a rumen friendly diet even if they didn’t realise it.
Records show that at first, before it became possible to buy quota, milk was produced with “cheaper” feeds but the farmer made more money because the milk was produced more “efficiently”.
In the last couple of years, “efficiency” has become a dirty word, as the beleaguered farmer has been trying to be more efficient and has come to the conclusion that he can’t get any better, which is why so many of them are selling their cows.
Why then are the league tables proving that the top 10 per cent of dairy farmers are making a good margin, and the rest are on a sliding scale of loss?
There are several reasons. First amongst equals are consultants and feed companies. Of course there are some giving good, effective advice to their clients, but they are like hens’ teeth.
At the same time there are those who encourage them to aim for higher yields, telling them that more milk will make more money. Not necessarily so! These farmers are not truly costing how they produce a litre of milk. Is the race for 10,000 or 11,000 litres actually making them more money or costing them more than they are making? A hard circle to square.
Rosemary Allen is a retired livestock farmer now living near Ellesmere and with her husband Peter is part of CowCash-Uk.