Dairy farm closures: More than 1,000 shut in three years

Media caption,
One in 10 dairy farms close across England and Wales

Nearly one in 10 dairy farms across England and Wales have closed in the last three years, an industry body has reported.

More than 1,000 have closed since June 2013, according to the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB).

North Yorkshire lost 89 farms, the highest total of any county, while Berkshire saw the greatest rate of decline with a third of farms closing.

The board said it was concerned by the milk price paid to farmers.

Image caption,
Yorkshire farmer Jeremy Holmes said the dairy industry was "in a mess" due to an oversupply of milk

An AHDB spokesman said some farmers were still paid about 10 pence a litre less than the cost of production, despite protests by the National Farmers' Union last year.

The board said North Yorkshire had lost more than one in seven farms over the period, while Berkshire had lost seven of its 22 farms.

In total, 1,002 farms have closed over the three-year period.

Yorkshire dairy farmer Jeremy Holmes said traditional dairy farming was "in a mess", with "far too much milk on the market".

He said he had survived by buying a vending machine to sell raw milk on his farm at Denby Dale near Huddersfield at £1 per litre - about three times the price paid by supermarkets.

Image caption,
Jeremy Holmes said a "raw milk" vending machine on his farm meant he was "connected with the consumer"

Regulations mean raw milk can only be sold on farms, which means supermarkets cannot compete with producers.

Mr Holmes added: "You are connecting yourself with the consumer directly, and it's literally the freshest milk from the cows."

Supply and demand has led to the cost of milk plummeting across the UK.

Farmer-owned dairy Arla has teamed up with Asda and is launching a £1.50 four-pint carton of milk, where 25p will go back to the dairy co-operative.

David Christensen, whose Oxfordshire farm produces 5,000,000 litres of milk for Arla a year, said: "It has been really tough over the last two years, supply and demand have really been out of balance.

"We have found that 60% of consumers are willing to pay more for their dairy products if they know that money will go directly back to the farmers."

Image caption,
Berkshire farmer Angus Hodge said he had cut his overheads to survive

Angus Hodge, a dairy farmer at Padworth in Berkshire, said: "The last couple of years have been a struggle with the milk price dropping but we've had to trim our costs, with eyes to the future when the milk price picks up."

Despite the closure of farms, the number of dairy cows in the UK increased by around 113,000 between 2013 and 2015 according to figures from the House of Commons library.

The report said the average herd size had risen as smaller producers left the industry.

During that period, milk prices fell by about 30%.

The report said UK milk production had increased by 8% between 2013 and 2014, mainly due to a higher yield per cow.

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