The continued decline in the number of dairy herds in Scotland highlights “widespread” problems in the industry, claims NFU Scotland.
The union’s milk committee chairman Gary Mitchell, who runs a dairy farm near Stranraer, made the comments in response to figures which show a net loss of seven Scottish dairy farms in the first six months of this year.
The figures from the Scottish Dairy Cattle Association (SDCA) show there were 836 dairy herds in operation in Scotland on July 1.
This included a net loss of seven dairy farms, however two new dairies were started during the six-month period in Dumfriesshire.
Mr Mitchell said: “While it is welcome news that there have been some new herds enter the dairy industry in Scotland, my main concern is the number of farms that have ceased production.
“These stretch across Scotland, highlighting that the problems in the industry are widespread.”
He said milk buyers, policy makers and retailers needed to be aware of the figures as the long-term decline in dairy herd numbers will lead to the industry looking very different in five years’ time.
“Securing a profitable future in milk production must be consideration not just for current producers, but for all the stakeholders that rely on the positive messages that Scottish dairy farmers have to tell and the great product they produce,” added Mr Mitchell.
“I fully appreciate the complexities of the market but when Defra announce that the UK average farmgate milk price for May 2021 is 30.11p per litre and I have spoken to several farmers who are being paid 15% less than that, then this ongoing disparity in milk contracts needs to be addressed.”
The SDCA figures also show the number of dairy cows has increased by 1,611 to 177,949, and the average herd size increased by four to 213 cows.
SDCA secretary, Janette Mathie, said there was more stability in the dairy industry compared to this time last year.
She added: “Cow numbers have also increased but so has investment with new parlours and cattle housing being installed.
“However, we are aware of some herds who will cut back or even cease production during the next few months, giving dairy farmers throughout the country the opportunity to invest in good breeding cow families.”