The initial findings of the most comprehensive survey of dairy farmers were released at the Royal Welsh Show today with responses indicating a 20% rise in milk production over the next five years, but TB was still ranked as their greatest concern for the future.
When asked about constraints to their enterprises, TB was ranked as the greatest constraint across all herd sizes, regions and age groups.
Over 50% (943) of Welsh dairy farmers responded to the survey, which was carried out at the beginning of this year and contains feedback from dairy farms of all sizes and locations.
In terms of future activity, 52% of respondents intend to increase milk production over the next five years, 38% expect to remain the same with 5% don’t knows and only 5% either decreasing or exiting the industry.
Larger herds are the most likely to increase production with 65% of farms with 200 or more cows intending to grow. Age was also found to be a factor with 73% of farmers under 40 looking to expand.
Conversely the smallest herds are least likely to grow, and only 36% of farmers aged between 60-65 planned to increase production. Surprisingly some 50% of farmers over 65 suggested they intended to increase production, which may possibly be due to family members coming back to the farm.
Based on the survey current milk production in Wales is calculated to be around 1.5 billion litres. However, provisional figures for 2013/14 indicate the figure to be 1.67 billion litres.
Based on the intentions from those farmers surveyed it is estimated production will increase by around 20% in the next five years. The vast majority of this increase in milk volume (85%) will come from the 200 plus cow herds.
This proposed increase in milk supply is likely to boost demand for calving down heifers as there appears to be insufficient young stock reared in Wales to cover replacement needs in herds with 200 plus cows.
The majority of respondents (73%) follow an all year round calving policy, with 10% mainly autumn calving, 7% in spring and 10% implementing a mix of spring and autumn calving.
On the question of renewable energy, a quarter of respondents have already invested in the technology with a further 14% planning to invest over the next five years.
So far, those with larger herds have engaged more with renewable energy - the most popular forms being photovoltaic/PV panels and wind
power followed by biomass
The survey found less than 5% of dairy farmers intend to leave the industry over the next five years, with almost 80% of them having less than 99 cows.
Other issues varied between herd sizes, with price volatility an area of concern for herds below 500 cows; availability of land is critical to medium size dairy units, while herd health and environmental legislation ranked highly for the largest farms.
Of lesser concern to those with fewer than 200 cows were capital investment and labour, while for larger herds CAP and price volatility are of least importance.
Awareness of the Glastir Scheme is high, but uptake is relatively low at 30%, with many respondents not interested or finding it conflicts with their farm system. The greatest uptake is in North Wales.
Organic producers represented 5% of respondents of which 95% intend to remain organic for the next five years, but there was no interest shown by non-organic farmers to convert to organic production.
Training and advice events are popular with 71% of respondents having attended at least one event in the last year – the most popular being those held on-farm, along with discussion group.
John Griffiths, Coleg Sir Gâr’s Dairy Development Centre Manager said: “This is the most comprehensive survey carried out on Welsh dairy farming and we are delighted with the response from across Wales.
“The initial findings make interesting reading and we are looking forward to analysing the data further.
The results so far clearly identify the need for further targeted support for dairy producers in Wales.
“It is exciting to see that the industry has ambition to expand production by 20% in the next five years.”