Last weekend I went to Wensleydale to write about dairy farming. You can read my report online here.
Or the unedited version below…
My grandmother was crowned Dairy Queen of Cockshutt in 1938. My mother grew up under the udders of her neighbour’s dairy farm. My father used to drink a cold pint of milk every Friday night with his dinner. In short, my family feel about dairy the way the yakuza feel about tattoos and sake, or the mafia feel about garlic and respect.
So it was inevitable, while running over the hills and along the rivers of the Yorkshire Dales this week, that my thoughts would turn to dairy. More specifically, to our danger of losing it.
According to the Harrogate Advertiser, 48% of dairy farmers in North Yorkshire have left the industry completely. The combination of ferocious price cuts, fluctuating commodity prices, a Russian import ban, the drop in demand from China, payment delays (up to four weeks in the case of First Milk) and some less-than-brilliant British weather means that many dairy farms are running at a loss, unable to pay back the money they’ve borrowed from the bank. And all the while, Tescos and Morrisons are selling a pint of milk for just 49p, ASDA for just 45p. As the NFU dairy board chairman Rob Harrison said in an interview earlier this year, “Being a dairy farmer at the moment is like being a boxer – on the ropes and taking body blow after body blow – there’s only so much you can take before throwing in the towel.”