20 February 1998

Casualty of rapid structural change

SOUTH-WEST dairy farming is facing rapid structural change. One casualty has been Graham Hicks, from near Landrake, Plymouth.

Until last November, Mr Hicks ran 50-odd milkers, a few beef cattle, sheep and cereals on his 63ha (157 acres) plus rented grass keep. Competition for grass pushed prices beyond reason, and the big drop in milk prices last year proved the final straw. He sold his dairy herd last November. "My only regret is that I didnt do it sooner. I left it too late and missed the best prices."

At 53 he feels he can carry on until retirement by supplementing his income with contract work. "Ive never known such despondency among farmers. A rep told me at least 50 dairy farmers south of the A38 in Cornwall have gone out of milking. Everyone is fed up with the rules and regulations, paperwork and poor returns." &#42