Welsh Dairy: New Report Shows Up To 75% Of Farms Are Unprofitable

The authors say findings suggest there are problems with the industry
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Maximising profitability could mean lower welfare standards for animals

Maximising profitability could mean lower welfare standards for animals

Some dairy farms in Wales have never made a profit, according to a new report.

The report, about the state of the Welsh dairy industry, shows up to a massive 75 percent of the country's farms were unprofitable during parts of 2016-2017 when milk prices were low.

Failure to generate profit means a number of these facilities survive on subsidies alone.

'Problems'

With some farms failing to decrease production costs below the price of milk - even in boom times - the reports' authors suggest 'there are some fundamental problems with the structure of many farms and possibly the industry'.

Despite this, they claimed 'profitable dairy farming is possible'.

'Lower cost'

Following the report, Rural Affairs secretary Lesley Griffiths pledged to look at the help received by less efficient farmers, and look at where profitability could be improved.

She said: "I am in the process of tailoring the support we offer these farms to help them re-evaluate the structure of their business.

"It is clear that by becoming more efficient and focusing on producing milk at a lower cost of production, all farms can become more profitable, no matter what the milk price is."

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'Dying business'

But animal behavior experts are concerned that a drive to reduce costs could result in lower welfare standards, causing more suffering for animals on these farms.

Dr. Toni Shephard is the Executive Director of leading international animal protection organization Animal Equality. She told Plant Based News: "It is widely-recognised that the drive for cheaper food has fuelled the rise in intensive farming and all of the animal welfare problems that go with it.

"On dairy farms in particular, reducing production costs is likely to mean keeping cows indoors year-round so they don’t 'waste' calories walking back and forth from pasture for milking; pushing their milk production to the extreme by using high-yield breeds which are prone to lameness and pelvic damage during calving; and a lack of investment in infrastructure which would leave cows in crowded, dilapidated buildings with unsuitable flooring."

Staff

She added: "Another major consequence of 'reducing production costs' is likely to be abuse of the animals as overworked staff become frustrated and lash out.

"Recent undercover investigations by Animal Equality and Animal Aid have captured dairy farm workers beating cows and calves - in all of these cases their defence was that they were overworked and lacked sufficient training. This can only be exacerbated by attempts to reduce production costs.

"It is obvious that dairy is a dying business and the Rural Affairs Minister should be encouraging Welsh farmers to transition to growing crops such as peas and oats which are widely used in the expanding plant-based milk market."