DAIRY farmers in the South West are headed to a popular show today (October 4). 

The Dairy Show, at the Bath and West Showground in Somerset, is set to showcase the strength of the industry - after the National Farmers Uninion (NFU) confidence survey highlighted that many are considering leaving. 

The NFU's South West Dairy Board Chair, Stephen Dark, said that despite dairy farmers feeling under pressue due to low milk supplies, he was hopeful the situation will improve. 

“The South West Dairy Show is a good opportunity for the dairy sector to showcase the scale and strengths of the industry within the region," he said. 

“However, dairy farmers will not be feeling so enthusiastic this year with many receiving downward pressures on their milk price since the start of 2023. Currently, prices have declined by 30-35% for most producers from the high prices of the Summer and Autumn of 2022 and this looks set to continue in the short term at least.

“This is against the backdrop that many face of needing to invest in their infrastructure on the farm. You can't expect family farms to invest if they have no confidence in the milk price.

“Many dairy farmers will be able to ride out the storm, but for the smaller family businesses that typify this region, the next year will be crunch time. Factors like whether they have succession in the business, secure land tenure or new infrastructure requirements could well become the deciding factor alongside milk price."

He explained that the reduction of direct support payments is 'unsettling' and that the delayed rollout of the SFI programme has left many 'still considering theur best options'. 

“There are some positives signs though," Stephen added.

"The last two Global Dairy Trade auctions have shown some increases, and easing milk supply in the US and other continents is creating positive moves on commodity prices globally.

“At home, consumers are also starting to return to more regular buying habits after the depths of the cost-of-living crisis which should translate into improved milk prices at the farmgate.

“And we still have export opportunities we must capitalize on. In emerging markets, there is a wealth of new consumers willing to purchase the high quality and nutritious dairy products that we produce in the South West.”