Dairy leaders have warned that milk producers can ill afford to adopt proposals that would see farmers sharing the cost of the government’s animal health measures.

The Royal Association of British Dairy Farmers (RABDF) said it would be inconceivable for farmers in the sector to adopt such measures in the current financial climate and while the problem of bovine tuberculosis remained unresolved.

But it conceded that in the long term the industry should be prepared to enter negotiations over government plans to introduce “responsibility and cost sharing” of animal health and welfare.

“Farmers continue to lose money on every litre of milk they produce,” said RABDF chairman Lyndon Edwards. “The sector is currently in an unsustainable predicament, and is unable to cope with the imposition of any additional costs.”

Neither could milk producers could not be expected to carry the cost of the eradication of bovine tuberculosis when the government had allowed the disease to escalate by failing to implement essential control measures, said Mr Edwards.

“It is essential that industry and government takes time in investigating the potential adoption of responsibility and cost sharing. A careful and considered approach must be taken and the evolution of the concept must not be rushed or forced.”