Dairy rotary parlour© Tim Scrivener

British dairy farmers have no choice but to compete with the world’s best, the Semex dairy conference heard on Monday (12 January).

DairyCo chairman Gwyn Jones said that despite the severe milk price pain farmers were facing, the global market for dairy products was still growing.

But he said that grasping that growth needed confidence, greater investment and more efficiency throughout the industry.

See also: Simple steps to energy efficient dairy farming

Mr Jones used the example of last week’s Oxford Farming Conference report, which concluded that in productivity UK agriculture was lagging behind competitors such as Germany, Denmark and the Netherlands.

“The industry as a whole needs to do better,” Mr Jones said. “If we don’t compete as farmers and win markets here in the UK, Europe and further afield, others will take them.

“Many of our farmers are, of course, the best, but we can’t be complacent or we are in danger of falling behind.

“If anybody doubts that we need to raise our game, then we could start to discuss endemic disease, calf rearing and feed conversion, where there is a huge variance within the industry.” 

Mr Jones explained to the conference how the levy boards were rebranding to create one world-leading centre of excellence, the AHDB (Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board).

The different boards will become divisions of one body. For example, DairyCo will become AHDB Dairy.

A wholesale review of AHDB’s strategy is due in the spring and farmers are now being asked how they think levy money should be spent.

A show of hands at the Semex audience showed unanimously approval for AHDB to funnel more cash towards promotion of dairy products.

Mr Jones said the core roles of AHDB Dairy were still providing independent, evidence-based information, upping technical proficiency and promoting the sector.

“The future long-term prospects for UK agriculture are still very good,” he said.

“It is important for AHDB to collectively focus on that, the long-term, however difficult that might be at the time.”