Sorry if I'm not allowed to post on here because I'm not a member of MHoC, however I do know at least something about Dairy farming having worked on one since I was 12
Warning.. EPIC post, it's spoilered because it is very very long!!
(Original post by Smack)
If dairy farmers aren't being given a fair price for their product, why do they sell it? I don't know much about farming...
(Original post by TheCrackInTime)
Can someone who knows anything about farming explain this?
Why do they sell it? Well it's there livelyhoods, passed on often for generations, it is a rather unique way of life in which work is 24/7 365 and many dairy farmers know little or no different.
Farmers cannot hold on to milk until the price goes up, as you can do with bottled water, oil etc. As milk is perishable, if you hold it in your milk tank too long, it'll go off. As even with refrigeration, milk is a mass of bacteria, prior to pasteurisation. As the vast majority of farms don't have the money for pasteurisation, facilities, they have little choice but to sell it.
Another reason for farmers selling milk, is the unique way (to this country) in which many farms are owned, many are council farms. These farms are owned by local councils and are rented to farmers. (Many of these farms in the past were bought by councils, years ago and then rented back to the people who they bought them off.) There is a contract between the farmer and the council, in which states many things, from amount of rent each year that needs to be paid, guidelines on new buildings and also what animals are to be farmed: including what type of farm it is, ranging from dairy, to beef, to poultry to arable etc. These contracts can be re-negotiated however the process takes time, and is quite confrontational for the farmer; hence is not often done.
Farmers sell their milk by contracts as well, they sell to supermarkets and milk distributors (Dairy Crest, Robert Wisemen etc) the price of milk is set by them, the contracts can't be cancelled without penalty, so farmers are pretty much held by the throat by said companies.
This is quite a heartless stand point tbh. The average age of a farmer is 57 in this country. Are you trying to tell me that you are going to get a load of 57 year olds to change everything they have known for their entire lifetime? I think the short answer is a no, people are resistant to change.
(Original post by jesusandtequila)
If the price is so low that you make a loss, then you shouldn't be a dairy farmer. Do something else.
In addition, farming is not like a normal job, you can't just go "ah well, I'll try something else." Farming, and agriculture as a whole, is very specialized. If a farmer wishes to change what he farms. Many changes have to be made. Including selling of the Dairy herd itself, as Dairy cattle are useless for a Beef suckler herd for instance, as they produce far too much milk, for one, two and often three calves!! They're offspring are also very "bony" in make up and don't put down enough meat, to make them decent eating.
A Beef Suckler herd, is where calves are born and suckle on their mother until weaning, whilst mostly on pasture. Once the calve is weaned, anywhere from 3 - 10 months old, they are then fattened until 24 - 36 ish months before being slaughtered, or bred from
If you have a lot of time, read the next spoiler.. it isn't truly neccessary, it's just a bit more background information
Selling the herd in many parts of the country, is a tricky preposition atm, due to Bovine TB. When a farm, has a reactor (a cow tests positive for TB) then that animal is condemned (slaughtered, some compensation is payed but doesn't really cover the full price of the cow), also the whole herd is put on a standstill, in which no cow may come onto or leave the holding, unless they are going for slaughter (whether because of being a reactor, or has been fattened for beef.) This means that the farmer is stuck with his/her herd, until a special TB sale takes place at a cattle market, in which cattle from herds that are down with TB. These sales are rare and the prices for cattle are poor. Hence farmers are reluctant to sell their cattle at them. Once a herd goes down with TB, they are tested every 60 days until they go 2 tests clear. This you might think is ok, frustrating but ok. It is not, as once a herd goes down with the TB, the test that is used (It's a lump test.. I will go into this in detail, if you wish, but this post is already epic, so I won't for the time being,) reduces in the efficiency of detecting TB by 30%. This means that either 30% more cases of TB shall be found than are or 30% less cases of TB shall be found. So a farmer may be stuck with TB and lose cattle to it, even though they don't have it.
Phew.. if your still with me, good going There's more to this post though
Right, so the farmer has managed to dodge TB, sell his herd (I forgot to mention, there is also a glut of dairy cattle currently, so the price of cows is down.. ) and sell his specialsed equipment (milking parlour stuff etc ) and has now brought in his new equipment along with whatever, he has now chosen to farm.
What are the impacts of the reduced numbers of dairy farmers in this country?
Well, for one the price of milk for the consumer shall rise, but for farmers the price isn't likely to change much, as the milk has to come from elsewhere. As Britain and Ireland are the largest consumers and producers of milk in Western Europe, the milk has to come from a long way away. Eastern Europe or New Zealand (Yes really, we import milk from the other side of the globe.) The milk produced there may or may not be cheaper than ours, however by the time you transport it, thousands of miles it becomes rather more dear.
Reduced dairy cattle in this country, means less Dairy and DairyX calves. This lower quality meat, (as explained above) is much cheaper than ordinary beef and is in large part the cheaper ranges of meat in the supermarkets, fast food restaurants etc. Less "entry level" beef means the price of beef will increase as only more "prime" beef will be available. Also more beef will have to be imported, which is again more expensive. Beef is one of the standards, of farming, if it's price rises, so does the price of all other meat and in addition, cereals.
There are many other effects.. but it's quarter to 2 in the morning... getting tired
This post is nice and cheery isn't it *sarcasm*
Ok so the farmer, has instead given up farming..
As said above, the average age of a farmer in Britain is 57, when a farmer sells up, it is often the case that a farmer does not buy the farm, (this is the case for council and privately owned farms, as councils often now sell off farms, when a tenant leaves.) Instead property developers buy it and build houses etc on it. This effects small, local communities hard. Farmers and Dairy farmers in particular are stationary by definition. Cows need milked twice a day, everyday!! So the farmers are never far away, meaning that they have a very permanent face and presence in the local community. In a sense helping to bind a community together. Similar to local post offices, shops etc. Removing such a permanent pillar of local society, removes the very fabric of the countryside. It might smell like BS, (excuse the pun) but it is true.
Another effect of removing farmers, is the number of jobs related to them. With large amounts of specialized equipment, comes an array of people, from builders, electricians, farm labourers, "handymen", salesmen etc. This is in addition to vets and so many other jobs (Dairy cattle incidentally, are the largest source of Large Animal work for vets. )
I think that'll do
tl;dr Dairy farming is in crisis, if prices don't improve, we'll all be effected in one way or another. Vote YES!!
I apologise to the people I quoted.. I went a bit OTT.
Any questions, on what I've written I'll be happy to answer
If you understand everything, I've written above, you could probably do well at a Vet Med interview