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UK Dairy Show a great place for farmers to gather and discuss ways to counter milk price fall
September 24, 2014

One of the most important events in the Westcountry farming calendar is held at the Bath and West Showground on Wednesday next week October 2.

This year’s Dairy Show will be taking place against a background of volatility in the dairy industry, with a downturn in global demand for milk pushing prices back down after a period of growth.

Farmers – who last saw a serious price crash in 2012 – must again decide if they can trim costs to boost profits, invest in their businesses to grow production or find a way to add value to the milk they produce to maintain their income.

They are hampered, many believe, by the supermarkets who are devaluing milk in the eyes of consumers by continuing to offer four pints for £1 – an initiative launched by the discounters but matched by the major supermarkets.

The supermarkets’ price squeeze on dairy producers is being blamed for Monday’s announcement that 261 dairy jobs are to go, 59 of them at Chard in Somerset and the rest at Hanworth in London.

The union Unite warned this week that Dairy Crest, which is making the redundancies, was caught between the unrelenting pressure of the supermarkets to drive down prices for customers and the legitimate desire of farmers to get a decent price for their milk.

The 202 jobs under threat at Hanworth are in a milk bottling site while at Chard the company makes flavoured creams, such as brandy butter. Unite national officer Matt Draper said: “We will be working closely with Dairy Crest to mitigate the job losses that are a severe blow to our hard working and dedicated members and their families. We will be investigating whether employees can be relocated to other Dairy Crest plants.

“As doorstep delivery moves over to the use of plastic bottles, what we are seeing here is the death knell of the traditional milkman delivering bottled milk to the doorstep as the nation sleeps. The reason for this is that supermarkets are selling four pints for £1, while dairy companies’ delivery prices are 79 pence a pint – they just can’t compete.

“Companies, such as Dairy Crest, are being squeezed by highly competitive supermarkets and dairy farmers seeking a decent return for the milk they produce.”

The company will now start the consultation process with the trade unions on the closures.

For the Bath and West showground manager, this year’s Dairy Show will offer a way for farmers to Dairy farmers will be examining ways to future-proof their businesses

Alan Lyons said: “Following a more settled couple of years for milk prices, which peaked at an average of 34.55p/litre in November 2013, values have started to drift; losing 1.29p/litre between April and June alone.”

“While milk prices will no doubt be a hot topic of discussion between farmers and processors, producers will be equally keen to look at ways to cut costs of production going into this winter.”

Over 300 trade exhibitors, ranging from milk buyers to parlour manufacturers, and feed merchants to dairy hygiene specialists, visitors won’t have to walk far to give their entire business an autumn overhaul.

“Feed costs have dropped sharply this summer, which will be a big help to dairy farmers – and following a more benign year many producers will be looking to reinvest in their businesses to make them more resilient in the years to come,” says Mr Lyons.

Producers who are considering a move to robotic milking will be able to see the Lely Astronaut in action throughout the day, while other tTop manufacturers, including the makers of robotic milking machines, will be on hand to discuss the latest dairy technology. Also on hand will be nutrition specialists while the National Association of Foot Trimmers will be carrying out live demonstrations on how to keep cows’ feet in tip-top condition. Farmers can also debate the future with industry experts at the Farmers Guardian Speakers Corner.

“Research shows that there is no silver bullet to becoming a top dairy producer – it is all about attention to detail in every area,” says Mr Lyons. “Whether that’s making the most of your manure, growing better forage, business planning with suppliers and consultants, or choosing the best genetics; it all adds up to creating a secure and profitable farming business.”

Visitors to the show will be able to eye up the best dairy cows available, with around 300 entrants expected to compete for the Supreme Dairy Championships. And on the eve of the show, they can rub shoulders with high profile leaders at the Dairy Industry dinner. Taking place after the showmanship and calf classes, the dinner culminates with the prestigious Dairy Industry Award.

Source: Western Morning News



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