Farmers descend on Telford for the return of UK Dairy Day

Thousands of people flocked to the county for the first dairy industry trade event to take place since the coronavirus pandemic enforced lockdown.

Farmers are currently facing huge challenges
Farmers are currently facing huge challenges

UK Dairy Day once again brought together all facets of the dairy industry at the International Centre in Telford yesterday.

After months of virtual working and socialising, the event provided exhibitors with an opportunity to finally have face-to-face conversations, promote products and services, and provide important advice required for dairy businesses.

Similar to many industries, the pandemic and Brexit have left farmers facing some of their biggest challenges for 50 years.

A shortage of seasonal workers has resulted in farmers giving produce away for free rather than seeing it left to rot.

And the National Farmers' Union said it has heard reports of deliveries being cancelled or delayed resulting in British products such as milk and fruit potentially going to waste due to a shortage of hauliers.

One farm to feel the impacts of the pandemic on staff is the 1,200-acre Highfields Farm in Audlem, near Market Drayton, which has about 900 cows.

Speaking at UK Dairy Day, farmer Tanya Winstanley said: "The pandemic has been extremely stressful. We have got a certain number of staff and some have been ill with it and we lost some through isolating, so we have had to do the work ourselves. We have also been very busy keeping to all the rules and regulations which has been very challenging."

Another farmer who said he has been lucky enough not to be impacted by the current lorry driver crisis is Rob Kite, of Coton Hall Farm near Stafford.

"The money is there but I don't know why people don't want to work for the HGV companies. I don't think furlough has helped. Luckily, our milk has been picked up every day, but it is worrying what you see in the news."

Tanya Winstanley from Rowmar Holsteins based in Audlem near Cheshire

Michael Smale, chairman of Holstein UK, said: "The lack of lorry drivers impacts on the entire food chain and food does have to move in and out of farms.

"We have worked with the NFU to lobby the Government to say 'this is serious'.

"A lack of seasonal workers has also been massive, not just now but for those who grow fruit and veg earlier in the season. This will also need to be addressed."

This year, UK Dairy Day welcomed the National Guernsey Show alongside The National Ayrshire Show, The National Brown Swiss Show and The National Holstein Show, as well as classes for Dairy Shorthorns and Jerseys.

The seminar programme had a new format with four seminar presentations and four industry panels that focussed on the future of the dairy sector and explored the opportunities and challenges that are ahead.

Practical demonstrations returned with the ever-popular foot trimming and knife sharpening in the external trade stand area along with the Beneath the Black and White calf painting.

In addition, judging of trade stands and cattle lines took place and awards were presented for Best Small, Medium and Large Internal Trade Stands, Best External Trade Stand, Best Presented Lines and Tidy Lines, along with the Holstein UK Premier Exhibitor Award and the Holstein UK Premier Breeder Award.

Rebecca Barningham, spokeswoman for UK Dairy Day, said: "It is fantastic to be back and I am really pleased with the positivity of everybody because a few months ago we were wondering whether it was going to happen.

"Visitor numbers are looking really good and all the trade stands are here which wanted to come. We've had great sponsorship and cattle numbers have also been very good and up on previous years."

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