Large-scale dairies have ‘key role to play’

Welsh dairy farmer Howell Richards hit out large-scale dairy planning complaints at the North West Dairy Conference in Preston this week, saying they were holding the UK dairy industry back.

“It is frustrating when America has grown [milk production] by 2% year on year, but the UK hasn’t met quota since 2004,” he explained.

Mr Richards, who runs a 2,200-cow dairy unit near Carmarthen, believes bigger dairies have a key role to play in helping to increase UK dairy production.

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He said cow welfare on large-scale dairy farms just as good, if not better, than animal welfare on smaller scale dairies.

He added: “We have specific people for specific tasks so if a job needs to be done today it gets done today.

“We are totally focused on mastitis and foot-trimming. If we have a cow and something happens to that cow we have an inquest into what went wrong.”

Mastitis rates at Cwrt Malle dairy stand at 12 cases per 100 cows, while 90% of cows within the herd have mobility scores of 0-1.

He said large-scale dairies also offered farmworkers better working hours and better pay than some smaller units. On his farm employees work eight-hour shifts.

Mr Richards admitted he had come against planning objections and complaints from local residents in the past and said he had overcome such issues by working with the local community.

He added: “In the past we’ve had people complaining about slurry spreading with splash plates, so now slurry isn’t spread anywhere near houses and we use an injection system.”

As a result of the changes he said they’d received a letter from the parish council commending them on the improvements.

He advised anyone considering expanding their unit or applying for a large dairy to engage with the local community to discuss issues and “win hearts and minds”.

“Make sure that you get everybody on board before you do anything,” he said.