One sixth of dairy farmers will quit the sector in the next two years, according to new figures.
Feed company BOCM Pauls, which claims to feed one in four dairy herds, conducted a survey of 600 producers - a sample almost double the size of that used recently by Professor David Colman in an influential government-backed study.
According to BOCM Pauls,10% of dairy farmers have made definite plans to quit now.
Of these definite quitters,16% will quit in the next six months, 14% within six months to a year, 36% within one to two years and the remainder after that.
A further 14% of farmers quizzed said they may quit, if prices do not improve. “At the
moment they aren’t seeing the positive signals to make them want to remain in dairying,” said David Forbes, BOCM Pauls market development manager. “We can reasonably expect half of those producers to stay and half to go.” This suggests a 17% overall fallout rate.
Colman’s analysis suggested 8.7% of producers intended to quit, with a further 8.4% remaining uncertain about their future. But while prices are usually cited as the reason why dairy farmers are so fed up, there is evidence that other factors are taking their toll.
Consultancy Kite surveyed a sample of producer customers, and found that although the majority of farmers were happy to work 50 to 60 hours a week, many ended up working over 80 hours. The drive towards ever-flatter milk production profiles is being blamed. This results in more constant workloads, eliminating the traditional annual slack time when farmers could take a break, said Kite.
Managing partner John Allen said: “The workload is relentless, and while farmers don’t mind that when they are making money, they resent it when they aren’t.”
Chris Walkland