Almost 500 English and Welsh dairy producers left the industry in the year to August, following the trend of recent years and bringing numbers down by 4.1% to 11,206, according to DairyCo.

This compares with a total of almost 19,000 producers just over eight years ago in April 1992.

Wales saw the largest regional decrease in pure number terms, with a fall of 119 (5.7%) between August 2009 and August this year.

The north west of England still has the largest number of dairy producers at 2420, although even this region saw a 3.2% fall in the year to August. The biggest percentage drop at 6.7% was in the east of England but this is from a very small base.

Across the 27 EU member states, dairy producer numbers fell by more than 14% between 2008 and 2009, to 1.339m compared with 1.561m. Romania, Cyprus, Greece, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Sweden saw the biggest reductions in herd numbers.