Archive Article: 2002/09/06

6 September 2002


There is no doubt that bovine TB is an infectious disease, which can be transmitted between cattle and wildlife

in both directions,

says John Bourne.

Prof Bourne is responsible for managing the Krebs TB trial and he believes culling

badgers would lead to a rapid improvement in the cattle TB problem, but removing all badgers from large tracts of the UK is not an option. He plans to explain why at his Spotlight on Profit forum.

"Getting the science into place is in the best interests of the industry to control infection." In his talk, Prof Bourne will also refer to early pathogenesis work, which highlights the difficulty of diagnosing the disease in its early stages when its infectious.

Haskinss view

When he addresses milk

producers at the Dairy Event Spotlight on Profit forum, Chris Haskins will explain the role he thinks dairy farming has in rural development. But for that to be possible, milk production must be profitable.

"If producers are attaining 17p-18p/litre in the present context they are doing well. Efficient producers will be able to survive on 18-20p/litre. But Id like to see prices at 20p/litre; to expect more than that is unrealistic," he says.

While theres no chance of a return to Milk Marketing Board days, Lord Haskins believes two or three national co-ops would be more sensible than the current plethora of processors.

Investing further down the supply chain – as in the recent deal when Milk Link acquired 600m litres of processing capacity from Express Dairies – will also help improve returns, he adds

However, he believes producer investment in the Staffs-based plant, Amelca – which recently called in the receivers only three months after opening – was misguided. "To invest in additional processing capacity is crazy. We must stop putting in extra capacity and rationalise what is already there."

But in the short term, there is a chance of milk prices improving, he says. "The industry is still suffering the effects of the foot-and-mouth crisis. Producers overestimated the deficit created by culled herds and stepped up production. However, we should see less of a surplus in the second half of the year which could strengthen prices.

Prices too low

More co-operation through mutually beneficial strategic alliances or joint ventures between producers and those who process their milk will help secure a future for producers, believes Terrig Morgan.

But producers cannot go on producing milk at such low prices, he says. In his role as NFU milk and dairy products committee chairman, he has found growing anger among producers. They say they are being paid less, while

processors and retailers are making bigger profits.

Mr Morgan says he only has to look at his own accounts to see severity of the financial damage being done to producers businesses and, regrettably, he concedes that a significant

exodus from the industry is almost inevitable. But while he acknowledges that anger,

however justified, it will not solve the industrys problems.

He does, however, believe that the NFU is equipped to fight for a better deal for producers. During his three-year stint as chairman of the, he has earned a reputation for straight talking and freely admits that he has upset some union members.

"I believe that I have to be honest and not make undeliverable promises about what the NFU can achieve on behalf of producers," says Mr Morgan.

"I am not going to stand up and promise the NFU will get 22p/litre for producers or even

the 20p/litre paid when I took

on the committee chairmanship."

That said, he is confident that NFU is influential and that

lobbying can have a big impact on those who determine EU dairy policy and set milk prices. But he admits the union does not have the direct political clout it once enjoyed.

The NFU is equipped to fight

for a better milk producers,

but it does not have the

political clout it once enjoyed,

says Terrig Morgan.

Investing further down the supply chain will help improve returns, but we must stop puting in extra milk processing capacity, says Chris Haskins.

TB is difficult to diagnose early,

says John Bourne.

PREDICTING a milk price even a month ahead seems a distant memory, making planning any business strategy difficult for producers. But plans for the future must be made by individual producers in order to survive the current downturn.

With so many milk buyers and the effect of Europe on commodity prices, it is difficult to say what prices producers can expect at any time in the future. The recent problems with Amelca also highlight a potential lack of security for producers. But to gain an insight into where prices and the industry is heading and whats needed for a successful future, be sure to attend the Spotlight on Profit forums at the Dairy Event on Wednesday Sept 18 and Thursday Sept 19.

As in previous years speakers will give a short address, followed by time for questions and discussion. They will take place in Exhibition Hall 2, starting at 11am on each day.

Visitors to the first forum at 11am will hear an address from MP Elliot Morley, junior DEFRA minister. He will be followed by Terrig Morgan, NFU Milk and Dairy Products Committee chairman (see right).

Even though foot-and-mouth is behind us, another cattle disease – bovine TB – is still causing concern on many farms. About 2800 cattle farms are currently under restrictions and there is a huge backlog in testing animals for disease -which has been on the increase in recent years.

But how will TB be bought under control? John Bourne who heads the Krebs triplet trial currently underway, will explain whats possible and whats not in terms of future control of the disease (see right).

Final session

The final session on Wednesday will be by John Duncan the chairman of the Federation of Milk Groups, which represents co-ops and direct supply groups throughout the UK. It claims its members account for 80% of the total milk produced in the UK.

Thursdays forums are kicked off by Jim Begg director general of the Dairy Industry Alliance (DIAL), formed in March when the Dairy Industry Federation and National Dairymens Association merged. It has 1300 members who include processors and doorstep delivery operators. The 64 members previously forming the DIF account for 90% of liquid milk processing in the UK.

When the new organisation was launched Mr Begg said that DIAL would be working more closely with milk producers.

"It will be moving away from the more confrontational issues of the past. There is now the opportunity to move forward on common issues." These could include closer collaboration over supply chain issues, and promotional and educational schemes, he said.

Another important issue which will face producers shortly is new legislation on fallen stock. This will be addressed by Simon Mead of the MLC. The final speaker is Lord Haskins (see right). &#42

The Spotlight on Profit sponsors, HBSC Agriculture, The Royal Association of British Dairy Farmers, MDC, DRC and FARMERS WEEKLY, welcome all event visitors to attend the forums which will take place in Exhibition Hall 2 from 11am.

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