British dairy farmers must be ready to adapt to change, according to the winner of this year’s RABDF/Dairy Crest Student of the Year Award, Philip Dunn.

Speaking at the award presentation at the Farmers’ Club, London, Mr Dunn said dairy farmers needed to accept long-term consolidation of the industry was inevitable, and expansion of businesses in sparse milk fields would be necessary.

This is something which rings true with Mr Dunn, who farms 70 cows at Helsley, North Yorkshire.

Mr Dunn said the demise of Dairy Farmers of Britain last year forced him and his family to co-ordinate a pool of local DFoB producers to secure a contract.

“As a former DFoB member we are trading on a transition DFoB contract, but we want to lock in to a long term contract so we can secure the future”, he said.

“With no security it is difficult to expand because the banks are cautious about lending money. It is my aim to grow the business, but to do this, may involve a collaborative venture,” he said.

But despite the talk of dairy expansion in recent weeks, Newcastle graduate Mr Dunn believed there was still a place for small family farms. “While expansion may be the only way for some dairy farmers to survive, small-scale farms can operate but location is important, as those not on a milk field have no other option except to expand.”

But even with the knock-back DFoB caused, Mr Dunn was still excited about a future in dairying. “The long-term prospects look good and there will be massive opportunities for young people coming into the industry. All we need is more assurance as milk producers so we have the confidence to invest.”

Mr Dunn was presented with a £1000 cheque by Dairy Crest’s Mark Taylor who advised the four finalists to “challenge processors and to continually look at alternative ways of doing things”. Mr Dunn said the money would be invested in the farming partnership.

Other finalists include Stephen Agnew, Queen’s University, Belfast; Robert Cooke, Reaseheath College; and Robert Pierce, Harper Adams University College.