Family labour boosts dairy’s future

WHILE MANY farmers” sons and daughters are turning their backs on the industry, one Welsh unit is upbeat about the future and aims to exploit plentiful family labour.

“When I and my brothers Vaughan and Trevor decided to join the business, it was clear we had to expand to give us all an income,” Malcolm Davies told Peredur Hughes, NFU Cymru president, when he visited the farm.

“We expect to be up from 180 to 200 cows by next spring and, with good management, we believe it should be possible to carry 300 on our 300 acres,” claimed Mr Davies.

“The dairy industry is going through tough times and many people will get out, but we think those who can get through current difficulties have good prospects. We try to do everything well, and if we can”t make it, nobody can.”

The partners” 122ha (300 acres) on the Lleyn Peninsula included Nyffryn Farm at Dinas and two blocks of rented land. He told Mr Hughes that winters on the peninsular were mild, but high rainfall kept cows in until April, and they were often housed from October.

The limited capacity of the lagoon meant that some slurry must be spread in the winter. This was possible using an umbilical system and selecting fields where there was no risk of run-off into a watercourse. Herd growth would exacerbate the problem, and Mr Davies admitted that he was concerned whether the system met with cross-compliance regulations.

“Perhaps we will have to invest in some sort of a separator system, but milk production is not generating the investment income needed.”

Also, the partners would have to find money to expand the 15:30 herringbone installed only four years ago, which would be very difficult unless the milk price improved.

Mr Davies said every effort was made to optimise returns and keep production costs in check. The herd now averaged 8300 litres a cow, and with about 3.4% protein and 4% fat, quality bonuses could be worth 3p/litre.

“Our costs are rising, but the milk price continues to fall. In December we were getting 19p/litre compared with a peak of 27p/litre. It is hard to see how we are supposed to find money to invest in our business.

“We have to use our farm assets as efficiently as possible. In our case that means having a business large enough to use available family labour,” he says.