This week Monkton Wyld Court, home to one of the oldest continually operating micro-dairies in the country, hosted a packed ‘micro dairying’ conference.
Over 2 days, 50 dairy farmers from around the country gathered to discuss ways in which farmers can survive in the current dairy crisis.
Discussions focused around presentations by farmers who have successfully built dairy businesses based on herds of 10 – 40 cows. In each case, success depended on reclaiming the margin from middle men by finding ways to sell high quality milk directly to customers.
As well as increasing sales prices, these micro-dairies have managed to cut production costs by making better use of pasture, managing breeds for resilience over yield, and often added value by processing.
Jyoti Fernandes, a micro-dairy producer and spokesperson for the Landworkers’ Alliance said: "In a climate where milk buyers are paying less than the cost of production we have to reclaim the margin. Dairy has traditionally been the heart of many rural communities; we have find ways to maintain these businesses for the sake of a vibrant rural economy. It has been great to see dairy farmers from all scales gathered to discuss solutions while the government does nothing to prevent farms closing down".
Peter Turner, who runs a 100 cow family dairy is considering cutting down to a smaller herd. He said: "We are running at far below the cost of production but can’t the farm go. It has been in the family for generations and means too much to us. We are now looking at models like milk vending machines to sell directly to customers that will allow us to get something more like 50p per liter, which will cover our cost of production. The number of dairy farmers has dropped from 32 000 in 2008 to 9000 now – we urgently need action to prevent more farms going out of business".