News that the Dairy Show at Shepton Mallet in October has been cancelled brings bitter disappointment to everyone involved and must be of huge frustration for the organisers. To lose such a high-profile event in the farming calendar is another reminder, if we needed one, of their importance as a rural business networking event, an opportunity to meet existing clients and to entertain and promote good causes.
Looking at the sales calendar for the specialist dairy auctioneers, the changing structure of the dairy industry continues apace with many herds ceasing production and others changing systems by replacing Holsteins with a 3-way crossbred. There was a time when the headline was ‘two dairy farmers cease production every day’; now not so extreme but still the number of individual dairy holdings continues to diminish.
The decision to exit dairy is not all down to economics
A major consideration for many is the practicality of milking cows when the farm is in the village. As a school kid, I helped (I think!) on a local farm which milked 30 cows in a traditional cow shed, eventually changing to an abreast parlour. The next generation, my contemporary in Young Farmers, expanded and went for a herringbone parlour. Now his son has come into the business and the family have invested £2m in a greenfield site for 400 cows.
In today’s villages, spaces have been developed and every family appears to need at least two cars! In my friend’s case, taking the slurry tanker through the village caused uproar and bollards had to be put at the end of the lane every night so the milk tanker could gain access early in the morning. However, on the flip side, the need for building land made the old farm site in the village very valuable, without which a move would not have been possible.
Making the dairy pay its way
At FOLK2FOLK we are aware of the changing dynamics of dairy farming, providing finance for cow and goat enterprises, cow accommodation, land purchase, milk processing facilities for liquid milk and ice cream. But with no cows, what can we do with the old stone barn where we reared calves? FOLK finances many projects where such buildings are converted into accommodation, business premises or catering/retail outlets. Is your dairy farm already out of the village? Would a farm shop based around your milk production be worth considering?
Although we can’t meet at the Dairy Show, we’d still love to hear your plans and perhaps we can help support your farm business with a loan for development or diversification.
By Ian Bell, Head of Farming & Rural Engagement
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