Farmer Focus: Contract termination shocks goat farmers

The dairy goat industry is in a state of shock following the termination of many goat farmers’ milk contracts.

Our contract continues, but it is devastating for those farmers who have invested heavily in milking facilities, adapting housing and stock. 

Arla gave notice to all its producers in the South West. The Abergavenny Creamery producers given notice are the last four that were signed up.

Following a factory fire in 2015, Abergavenny continued to accept milk during the period when cheese could not be packed and sold – this has led to a large stock of curd.

See also: Producers ‘devastated’ by goat milk contract termination

Combined with farmers increasing milk output, this oversupply has seen milk intakes severely curtailed.

Hopefully the market will rebalance itself by 2019, but this year will be particularly challenging.

We are busy washing and cleaning the kid-rearing shed to get ready for when the goatlings start kidding later in February. We had reasonably good scanning results, with more than 95% of maidens in kid.

We have decided not to kid any of the adult goats this spring and we plan to milk some of them through until next year and kid some of them in the autumn.

On the beef side, we have weaned all the late-born calves and are getting ready for calving later this month too.

NFU Cymru has a new leadership team, with John Davies elected as president and Aled Jones as his vice-president. I am sure they will continue the good work done by Stephen James.

At the same council meeting, we heard from the NFU HQ presidential candidates, who were all very impressive. They all recognised the appalling health and safety record of farming and the need to change attitudes to improve it.

We also had a Brexit debate, with the Welsh government, AHDB, Hybu Cig Cymru and others presenting their view on Brexit and any future agricultural policy.

We need strong union presence now more than ever, to make sure farming’s voice is heard. All the talk of environmental payments and public money for public good shows the government needs to be reminded that our primary role and revenue comes from food production, particularly livestock production in Wales.

Gary and Jess Yeomans run a herd of 700 milking goats across 100ha, which supplies a local cheese factory. They also own a small pedigree Welsh Black suckler herd to graze permanent pasture in Abergavenny, Monmouthshire.