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Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnane hails from a sixth-generation drystock and specialised pedigree suckler enterprise in Co. Mayo. She currently holds the positions of editor and general manager at That's Farming, having joined the firm during its start-up phase in 2015.
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Farm vets lobby for greater support for farmers following ‘drastic’ fall in milk prices

Farm vets from one of Europe’s largest veterinary groups are calling for “greater” government support for UK dairy farmers following a drastic fall in milk prices.

Vets from VetPartners, which looks after a number of the UK’s dairy herds, are lobbying their MPs to ask the government to address the volatility of the milk market at a time when farmers are facing increased labour costs and the price of fuel, equipment, energy and rents have risen.

The average farmgate price for milk slipped to 37.6p per litre in May, according to government figures – a near-8% decrease on the same month a year earlier – leading to many farmers leaving the sector.

Now, farm vets from VetPartners, which owns some of the UK’s most trusted and respected farm practices, are calling for a minimum farmgate price to be implemented to ensure a fair deal for the primary producers of milk, other dairy products and meat.

VetPartners Farm Director Ian Cure is among the farm vets who have written to their MP voicing concerns about the future of dairy farming.

Drastic fall in milk prices

Mr Cure said that this industry volatility makes it “incredibly” difficult for farmers to invest in their rural businesses and plan for the future.

The five-year, rolling average farmgate price for milk as of May 2023 was 33.65ppl, and this has changed very little over the last six years.

“It is well documented that in recent times, costs across all sectors have increased with labour costs, fuel, equipment, rents and rates at an all-time high,” he added.

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“This now means that the industry estimates the cost of production to be in the region of 40-45ppl.”

“It is, therefore, clear that this is not sustainable, and something must be done to support British farming, and ensure food security for our country.”

“Whilst the volatility of the milk market makes future business planning extremely difficult, the recent fall in price means that many are struggling to make ends meet, with the knock-on effect of damaging rural economies.”

“Farmers that we work with have always and will always prioritise the health and welfare of their cows, and strive to produce fantastic local food for our country.”

Farmers leaving the sector

“We understand the government’s position in trying to reduce inflation, this must not be at the expense of farmers.”

“We have already seen many farmers leave the sector for economic reasons. Food security for this island nation is paramount, and I believe we must take action now to prevent more farmers leaving the industry.

“We implore the government to support the implementation of a minimum farmgate price to ensure a fair deal for British farmers.”

“We understand that this will increase costs, but they need not be met from the already stretched government funds. Processors and supermarkets should burden their fair share of the costs. It cannot be right that critical primary producers always bear the brunt of market fluctuations.”

Trade deals 

Mr Cure said import trade deals from South America and Australia had left farmers fearing further damage prices farmers receive for their goods.

He added: “These vital rural businesses are currently feeling the strain and do not, at present feel they are receiving adequate government support.”

“There has recently been reported, widespread uncertainty regarding ongoing subsidy and financial support, which, with farmgate prices at their current level, are the life support of the rural economy.”

“We must act now to support these farmers as they have supported and continue to support us by providing the market with some of the highest welfare and greatest quality produce in the world.”

“Minimum milk pricing to the cost of production is the least we owe them and is vital to ensure the survival of these businesses and our country’s ongoing food security,” Cure concluded.

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