Dairy farming's future lies in successes of its past

Fri.09.Sep.2011 BST

Families are being asked to do their bit to save the British countryside and protect the future of local farms by asking supermarkets and shops where the milk they sell comes from.

There are now just 15,000 dairy farms left in the UK (11,000 in England and Wales) – down from almost 30,000 ten years ago as farmers struggle to make a profit. Now some are considering investing in huge American style ‘mega dairies’ where cows are primarily kept indoors by their thousand and milked intensively.

However a leading animal charity today has released a report that they say shows the concept of factory-like giant dairy farms is completely flawed. It is endorsed by Dragon’s Den star Deborah Meaden, who says that the business case for mega-dairies is based on “high risk economic guesswork”.

In their report, Weighing up the Economics of Dairy Farming, WSPA says some current business models are not sustainable in the UK, that farmers should be encouraged to go back to basics by adopting a pasture-based system rather than keeping their herds indoors, and using different varieties of cattle that may produce less milk each day but live longer and healthier lives.

This they believe offers an achievable and smart business model that can work for dairy farmers.

Dragons’ Den investor Deborah Meaden said: “The British dairy industry is in crisis. Ordinary farmers are being railroaded into thinking that bigger is better and they must go intensive to survive. With this report WSPA and I firmly contest that belief. Not only is it wrong for farmers, the countryside, consumers and for cows, but it is based on unsustainable principles and high risk economic guesswork. WSPA is proposing a viable, alternative business model. I hope that it gets the attention it deserves before it’s too late, and this crisis becomes an irreversible calamity.” 

And consumers are being urged to do their bit in the debate by asking where their milk comes from. In the same way that the campaign to overcome battery-farmed hens used consumer power, WSPA wants customers to challenge supermarket bosses and shop owners to find out if their milk comes from cows grazed on the land or from those kept primarily indoors.

For more information visit: www.notinmycuppa.com