GB dairy producer numbers estimated at 8,820

Wednesday, 23 October 2019

Our most recent survey of major milk buyers suggests there are currently an estimated 8,820[1] dairy producers in GB. This is a reduction of 30-35 producers (0.4%) compared with February this year when we completed the first survey.

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) is often used to track producer numbers across England and Wales, based on the number of farmers registered to produce milk[2]. It has been undertaking a cleansing process since November last year and as such, its numbers have fallen significantly over that time, resulting in a lack of clarity on the actual number of producers.

The number of dairy holdings reported by Defra includes all farms with a dairy cow over 2 years old with offspring. The latest data, for 2017, showed there were 16,605 dairy holdings in GB, a much larger number than our estimate. However, nearly 40% of these holdings had fewer than 10 cows, meaning they are unlikely to be commercial dairy farms.

[1] AHDB’s estimate represents the number of producers actively contributing to GB milk production. It is based on the number of active producers and temporary inactive producers from the milk buyers that contribute to the Daily Milk Deliveries survey. This covers approximately 75% of volumes in GB, and so the estimate has been adjusted accordingly. A figure based on levy data has been used to account for direct suppliers

[2] The FSA database will be updated quickly when a new farmer starts up production, but not necessarily when a farmer exits. Deregistering is voluntary, and therefore unlikely to be top of the “to do” list for a farmer leaving the industry. The FSA will often only capture this cessation when a regular check is carried out. These checks occur on a 10-year basis (for those registered with Red Tractor) or a 2-year basis otherwise. In-between these checks, FSA will often rely on Red Tractor data to identify farmers who have ceased, and this is where a proportion of the latest drop in farm numbers has come from.

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