An industry ‘plagued by lack of confidence’

THERE is a lack of confidence to invest in the dairy industry right now, a Suffolk farmer says.

Paul Baker from Gipping, Stowmarket, represents the county on the NFU’s regional dairy board and is a third-generation dairy farmer with a 190-strong dairy herd, employing five people. The business expanded during the Second World War and in the 1980s but he says there is no confidence to invest at the moment.

“We are arable farmers as well and it’s a lot easier to swap between crops than it is to go in or out of dairying. Once a dairy herd is sold it’s gone for good and you also lose jobs and infrastructure,” he said.

“We are becoming more efficient in how we run our business but not everyone is able to do that. People are going out of dairying and we are losing the infrastructure we need to support us.”

Mr Baker said he hoped the dairy summit had raised the profile of the crisis and increased pressure to get the price cuts reversed.

“Like every other business we have to be profitable to keep going. It’s as simple as that,” he said.

Livestock farmer Jonathan Brown from Great Barton buys calves to rear and then sell on to other farms. He has seen the number of dairy farms he deals with drop from ten to just two.

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“I work mainly with dairy farms in Cambridgeshire and Suffolk and there has been a huge reduction in the last few years, including farms at Ely, West Stow and near Diss that have sold their herds. It’s now becoming much more difficult to get the calves,” he said.

“I went along to the event to show my support for the dairy industry and I was surprised just how many people were there.

“I spoke to a lot of farmers during the day and they were all very concerned about the situation. You just can’t keep going without any profit, and the smaller the farm the less chance you have of staying in business.”

NFU regional policy adviser Alex Butler-Zagni said the number of farmers who left their farm to travel to London for the dairy summit showed the strength of feeling and the seriousness of the situation.

“Dairy farming is a family affair, which is why we saw so many younger farmers travelling down to make their voice heard. They want to ensure there is a future for the next generation of dairy farmers,” he said.

“We also saw livestock and arable farmers coming along to show their support. This display of unity sent a strong message to politicians, the public and dairy processors that the proposed 1 August cuts must be reversed. If that doesn’t happen, there’s no doubt we will be seeing many more herds sold in the East of England.

“We will ensure that the momentum of this event continues to build and the NFU will work even harder to deliver an effective follow-up plan in the days and weeks ahead. “