Number of dairy farmers in county halved in a decade

The Oxford Times: WORRIED: John Malins with some of his cows at Hawkwell Farm, in Bicester Buy this photo WORRIED: John Malins with some of his cows at Hawkwell Farm, in Bicester

THE number of dairy farms in Oxfordshire has fallen dramatically since 2002, new figures show.

Data from research body DairyCo shows that in 2002 there were 114 registered dairy farms in the county – but there are now just 46.

The group puts the fall down to wet weather and the economy.

Dairy farmer John Hook, 62, has been in the industry for more than 50 years and runs Cote Lodge Farm, near Bampton, with his son.

He said: “They say there are 46 dairy farms in Oxfordshire, but it feels more like 20.

“This year we have had a lot of flooding. It ruins all the grass.

“Unless they do something about the flooding, it will be the demise of dairy farms in this area.

“We get floods every year because not enough maintenance is done. Someone has to get it sorted.”

Amanda Ball of DairyCo said wet weather has reduced milk production in the county.

She said: “In 2012 and 2013, farmers experienced the negative impacts of extreme wet weather on grass growth and crop production.

 

The Oxford Times: Farmer John Hook with flooded fields at Cote, near Bampton

John Hook at Cote Lodge Farm

“The subsequent issues then had a bearing on milk production costs and milk yields. This contributed to a drop in confidence and reduced their ability to fund investment.”

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Farmers have also had to contend with low milk prices and rising costs, said National Farmers Union spokeswoman Isobel Bretherton.

“It is down to appalling prices milk processors have given the farmers and the middle-men who have taken a cut,” she said.

“The problem is being rectified in a lot of cases. Many farmers have got themselves better contracts with their producers.

“Things reached a critical point in 2012. You can’t keep animals at a loss. In the end a lot of dairy farmers just left in despair.”

John Malins, 65, owns Wharf Farm, Souldern, and Hawkwell Farm, Bicester.

He said: “The milk price is improving but is not yet in line with rising costs elsewhere.

“If your farm is flooded and your grass underwater, it can be very serious. You have to find a place to put your cattle where they are safe and dry. If you don’t have spare buildings to put them in, you are in trouble.”

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