12 January 1996

Try NZ-style share milking to help newcomers, call duo

CALLS for the agricultural industry to introduce share-milking in a bid to help new entrants were made by two speakers at Oxford.

Both Graham McConnell, principal of Harper Adams Agricultural College, and Irish farmer Michael Murphy said the scheme – which has been so successful in New Zealand – should be trialled in the UK.

The contracts between the farmer and his employee are either on a 27% basis, where the share-milker does all the work and is rewarded with 27% of the milk cheque, or on a 50% basis, where the employee owns the cows and pays all of the parlour costs for his share of the milk cheque.

Prof McConnell said such a system allowed the landowner or tenant to retain his interest in the farm but to be released from the daily grind of milking cows. The share milker can use his skills and energy to create a share of the profits, which he puts towards his first tenancy.

Mr Murphy, who spent several years farming in New Zealand, said the share-milking system contrasted starkly with the stagnation of ideas and opportunity in the European dairying industry.

"The effect of this energy, innovation and enthusiasm is to challenge everybody else to perform to higher standards.

"It is a wonderful way to ensure vigour and regeneration within an industry."

Reform of the European dairy sector may not be too many years away. EU farm commissioner Franz Fischler told delegates that a discussion of the reform of the milk market would take place in 1997.

Mr Fischler admitted that there were many sections of the UK dairy industry which were fed-up with quotas, but said there were nations – notably Germany and Austria which did not want change.

He said the milk system could follow the sugar regime in adopting an A, B and C quota allocation, though this was firmly rejected by MAFF, which said it would be bureaucratic and open to fraud.

There was little sympathy for the plight of the UKs young farmers from European agricultural representatives. Dr Carl-Josef Weiers, first counsellor (Agriculture) at the German Embassy, said the UK government had rejected EU new entrant and retirement grant schemes. Marion Guillou, French agricultural attaché, said EU aid had helped boost new entrant numbers in France last year after years of decline.

Gavin Strang, shadow farm minister, said the Party was looking at the possibility of creating a national dairy quota reserve, which would be siphoned off to new entrants for a 10-year period.

Other Labour policies include implementing the early retirement scheme and providing greater support to the national county council farms estate.

Graham McConnell: Share milking schemes would help new entrants on to the farming ladder.