Working hard to get a better deal for all British dairy producers for the long term will be my priority as RABDF chairman, says David Cotton.
We farmers are vital custodians of the countryside managing the land for future generations. To succeed, a sustainable business is essential and that in the first instance means achieving a fair milk price, one that covers the cost of production, is sufficient to allow for reinvestment and provides the farmer with a good standard of living.
However, farmers must do their own bit to be successful. One of the key elements to every dairy farming business is knowing cost of production. It’s absolutely essential for day-to-day management as well as five-year budgeting.
After six years of campaigning for an Ofmilk, we welcomed government’s decision to introduce an ombudsman last month to ensure greater transparency in the supply chain; we will be monitoring its actions. We need that fair price to continue to incentivise myself and my generation, and equally important, the next. After losing half of the country’s dairy farmers in the last decade, fallout is continuing to run far too high at 4% a year, and succession is vital.
TB is also something that will continue to dominate and being aware of this disease first hand with 10 cows testing positive for TB in the last 18 months, despite not being in a hot spot area, means I will be continuing to put pressure on DEFRA, MPs and the Minister, to implement better TB control measures throughout the UK. I admire Wales for taking the lead in adopting a proactive approach towards solving the issue and I will be continuing RABDF‘s appeal for humane badger culling in high TB incidence areas throughout the UK.
Since we are losing an annual 26,000 head of dairy cattle to TB, the shortage of heifer replacements is being stemmed by importing. I want to ensure all dairy farmers are better informed about the disease risk implications and follow industry good codes of practice.
Knowledge transfer and training are some of my key interests and being landlord to Kingshay which rents redundant farm buildings converted to offices and uses the farm for trials puts me in a great position. It’s a win-win relationship; I have the opportunity to observe science put into practice on my own farm and I’m very pleased to open it up to more than 500 Kingshay visitors each year.
As far as training is concerned, we never stop learning. I encourage all farmers to get off their farms and create the opportunity to see their business from a wider perspective. In fact I was initially introduced to RABDF when I attended a practical training course. I was attracted to RABDF because it offers a completely independent voice for British dairy farmers, speaking on behalf of a broad spectrum of producers including those who manage commercial milking goats and sheep.
Five years on since being elected to council, I now have the opportunity to sit around the table and influence, whether it be at government or farm level or at the Dairy Event and Livestock Show, which cannot escape being among my priorities.