Scotland has 17 fewer dairy herds than it had six months ago, according to the latest information from the Scottish Dairy Cattle Association (SDCA).
The reduction in herds is a continuation of a long-term trend, and reflects not just the difficult period for milk producers and processors during lockdown – when demand for milk and dairy produce contracted overnight – but years of dissatisfaction with the industry’s pricing structures and profitability.
There are now 862 dairy herds in Scotland, and the SDCA says it expects the shift towards fewer but larger herds to continue. However, it seems there is still optimism in some quarters, with new dairies starting or resuming milking in Stirlingshire, Dumfriesshire, Lanarkshire and Wigtownshire.
Producers are pinning their hopes for a more equitable contracts system on the outcome of a UK Government consultation, but in the meantime encouraging results have been published by farmers’ co-operative First Milk in its annual report.
In the year to March 2020 First Milk delivered growth in turnover, operating profit and net assets, as well as a reduction in net debt and an improved milk price to producers. Group turnover was up 4% to £282.8 million (2019: £272.3m), operating profit was up 4% to £7.5m (2019: £7.2m), net debt down 20% to £33.1m (2019: £41.1m), and net assets were up 25% to £39.8m (2019: £31.8m).
First Milk chief executive Shelagh Hancock said despite the uncertainties around the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic and Brexit, she believed the co-op was well-placed for the future.
Meanwhile, independent dairy companies and farmers are reaching out to consumers to raise the profile of milk. Mossgiel Organic Farm is offering to help their “supporters”– other small businesses – with marketing, and Graham’s The Family Dairy has launched a search for a new Milk Ambassador to mark the indoor opening of pubs, restaurants, and cafés.
For a chance to be a Graham’s ambassador, customers are asked to share a milk-inspired image or video across social channels using #MyGrahamsMoment.