Thursday, 28 March 2019
A recent survey* of major milk buyers suggests there are currently around 8,850 dairy producers in GB.
The true number has been shrouded in uncertainty recently. The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has been the most used source to track producer numbers across England and Wales. However, this database is going through a cleansing process**, resulting in the numbers falling dramatically over the last few months.
Defra’s dairy holdings number includes all farms with a dairy cow over 2 years old with offspring. The latest data, for 2017, showed that GB had 16,605 dairy holdings. However nearly 40% of these had fewer than 10 cows, making them more likely to be suckler herds than dairy farms.
Despite the ongoing decline in dairy producers, milk production is expected to be the highest in 29 years. Other factors, including cow numbers and yields, have a larger bearing on production than the number of producers.
*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.
**The Food Standards Agency (FSA) database 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. The most recent Red Tractor database has highlighted to FSA a number of potential cessations, which they are currently working their way through. A number of those farmers stopped many years ago.
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