Market Shows Milk Decline:By Catherine Paice

OUTSIDE THE PREMIER league of dairy farms (Land and Farms, Oct 29), significant numbers of holdings are moving out of milk and even well-equipped units in peripheral locations are selling slowly.

Complications relating to CAP reform and concerns over future income – Robert Wiseman is the latest processor or co-op to announce the likelihood of price cuts – are affecting optimism in the sector.

Agents say that market interest in dairies falls into two clear camps: upgrading farmers looking for value for money, and residential/lifestyle buyers. Although existing farmers who want to upgrade or expand their businesses are a forceful presence in the market, most do not want to tie up too much money in expensive houses.

A number of producers are selling to cash in on the residential element of their farms and invest instead in more up-to-date facilities, although the latter are proving hard to find, said David Hebditch of Humberts.

The firm has sold Haselbury Park Farm at North Perrott, near Crewkerne, Somerset, with a dairy complex for up to 250 cows and a period farmhouse split in two. The guide price was 1m. The fact that the parlour needed some updating meant the new owner will not be milking cows there.

Both 136-acre Church Farm near Shaftesbury, Dorset, also marketed by Humberts at 1.4m, and 176-acre Tackbear Manor at Bridgerule, Devon, guided by KVNStockdale at 1.2m, met similar fates.

Symonds & Sampson sold 620-acre Crawthorne Farm at Dewlish, near Dorchester, for over its 4m guide. But dairying interest was again outrun by those with other intentions for the property, although the land, buildings, a farmhouse, bungalow and three cottages were acquired by a major Dorset farming business.

However, for serious milk producers prepared to move to Cornwall or Wales, large units are still available.

In Wales, 324-acre Rhosmaen, near Fishguard, priced at 2.25m and launched in early September, has not been sold despite the potential advantages of milking cows under the Welsh interpretation of the single farm payment.

Milk producers will be paid for every litre of quota held at the end of March 2005, and there is no downward, sliding scale for subsequent years, said Richard Thompstone of selling agent FPDSavills.

Welsh Income

 “There is still time to get established in Wales, buy or lease as much quota as you want, and set yourself up for a regular income stream.”

A similar amount of money will buy most of 493-acre Trelissick, another well-equipped holding with cubicles for 315 cows and 20/40 fully automated herringbone parlour that was put up for sale in Cornwall in July by Greenslade Taylor Hunt.

Marketing has been widened with the introduction of Humberts as joint agent. The sale could go either way – it includes a pretty, listed house and farm manager’s house on the sought-after Roseland Peninsula. “But it’s been put together for a dairy farmer. We are pleased with the interest so far,” said Mr Hebditch.