Farmer Focus Livestock: Incomes must improve, says Dale Whalley

For too long we have been hearing the long term prospects for dairy farming are good, but now our rolling margin over feed for the last 12 months is down £50,000 compared with 2008. This was caused by a reduction in milk price and an increase in feed costs. We have saved about £25,000 on buying Dutch replacements and a reduction in fertiliser costs, but, next year, our incomes must improve.

Recently there has been talk about encouraging more people into farming. This could be achieved if all farming sectors saw a drastic and long term rise in profits. School leavers are not going to consider farming unless we can match the salaries and working conditions other industries offer.

We all know in the next decade food production will have to increase, but if farmers have to wait any longer for improved returns there won’t be sufficient skilled farmers with the infrastructure in place to produce this extra food.

I also fear for tenant farms, as landlords don’t seem willing to invest in improvements unless it is reflected in larger rents and empty farms are split up and offered as parcels of land on short term Farm Business Tenancies. On our estate we now have only 40% of the milk producers compared with 10 years ago and the situation here will never improve.

Looking on the bright side, it’s been a fantastic autumn. The only problem we are having is falling conception rates. Is it time to invest in a heat detection system?

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