A dairy farmer’s perspective…

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Originally posted here.

Written submission from Emma Dennis

Thank you for this opportunity to share my views on the Dairy industry in my area. I am a tenant farmer milking 70 head of dairy cows, which is classed as a relatively small farm these days. I live on the Island of Gigha and run the family farm where I was born in 1969; my brother works the farm with me, with help from my siblings at silage and hay-making times.

There are 4 dairy farms here on Gigha, with all our milk collected by First Milk every 2nd day. It used to be collected every day but this became too costly for First Milk so we were advised to put bigger milk tanks in to enable milk collection every 2nd day.
We were also told by First Milk that we the farmers had to start paying for the milk tanker’s carriage on the ferry. The farmers on Gigha all stick together to keep costs down, we use the same cow feed merchants, fertiliser merchants, veterinarian etc.

One Million and a half litres of milk has to be produced on the Island to make it still viable for First Milk to keep on collecting our milk, and now with First Milk’s bombshell 10 days ago (about the fortnight’s delay in payment) as well as and only getting half our milk cheque, farmers here are very worried about our future on
Gigha.

I know the farmers on the mainland are just as worried and have every right to be but at least they do not have a strip of water between them and the mainland. We are out on a limb here on Gigha. We have already had to dump our milk twice this winter
due to stormy weather since First Milk will not collect our milk when its 3 days old, so we have to pour it away. Luckily the ferry is never off for 4 days in a row. I know First Milk cannot do anything about the weather but they could give us a preservative (as they do with farmers on the mainland when they need to) to pour into our milk on the 3rd day so it can still be collected on the 4th day.

I hope I have given you an insight to the dairy farmers lives here on Gigha and how hard it is to try make a living here. But I should add that my Dad and Mum farmed here before me, I have 3 sons all born on the farm, and this is where we want to live
and work. But if one farmer decides that he is going to stop milking here on Gigha then I am afraid that means we all have to pull out of milk as we cannot meet the million and a half litres with only 3 farms.
25 years ago my father was paid 34 pence per litre for his milk. Allowing for inflation this is equivalent to 80 pence per litre now. So in “real terms” we are being paid less than one quarter as much as came in 25 years ago, and yet all of our costs have
gone up. It doesn’t take a lot of calculating to see that the dairy farmers are in a terrible bind, as all our hard work just sends us into debt these days. Our costs work out at about 28 pence per litre, so it’s no wonder dairy farmers are quitting. There’s not even a glimmer of light at the end of what appears to be a very long dark tunnel.

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