Ninety-one dairy farmers and their partners from ten regions across the UK gathered at the home of HRH The Prince of Wales, Highgrove in Gloucestershire, on Monday to celebrate an initiative providing vulnerable dairy farmers with practical business support. As the British dairy sector suffers the effects of recent falls in global commodity markets, HRH The Prince of Wales was able to hear first-hand about some of the challenges farmers are facing and how his initiative is making a difference to help farmers stay in business.
The Prince’s Dairy Initiative is inspired by The Prince of Wales’ long-held concerns about the future sustainability of UK dairy farming. It is delivered by his charity - Business in the Community - in partnership with sector body DairyCo and now has the commitment of all major UK dairy processors and feed companies. Dairy Crest's Director of Agricultural and Farmer Communications, Lynsday Chapman, is Chairman of the Initiative and has been an integral part of the project since it was launched in 2012.
At Monday's reception, Lyndsay thanked HRH The Prince of Wales and the farmers for coming, and commented:
“This is an important time to support vulnerable farmers. The aim of this practical programme of workshops, delivered by experts and tried and tested by three groups of farmers, is to give relevant advice to farmers that helps them make the most of their resources. I hope that today has made the farmers see how valued they are, and given them the confidence boost they need to continue dairying.”
The Initiative aims to increase the diversity and long term sustainability of the British dairy sector by offering a package of tailored business support to small and medium sized dairy farms. Farmers participate in practical workshops delivered locally by dairy sector experts. Topics include herd health, soil and slurry management, nutrition and how to speak to the bank manager. As well as reducing costs and improving technical farm performance, participating farmers benefit from joining a network of local, like-minded people to share knowledge and best practice with. 216 farmers have enrolled in the programme since 2012, all are still in business and an independently conducted evaluation showed that the majority feel more confident about their future in the dairy sector as a result of participating.
Mick Dakin, who runs a dairy farm with 90 cows in Derbyshire, joined the Initiative for its second year in 2013. He said of his experience:
“There are so many things to do on a farm, you can’t be a master of every trade but until you know where you are, you can’t move forward. Putting figures on things has really helped, as has meeting other farmers who are facing the same challenges as us.”
The Initiative is now in its third year and its work is more vital than ever given the challenges facing British dairy farmers. HRH The Prince of Wales met every farmer at the reception and said a few words to the group as a whole.
Stephen Howard, Chief Executive of Business in the Community said:
“Dairy farmers are key to a thriving rural economy and the lifeblood of prosperous rural communities. They have a higher turnover than other farming enterprises and employ a number of people in their local community. The practical support provided by The Prince’s Dairy Initiative has never been so crucial and we are delighted to be celebrating the programme today in the presence of HRH The Prince of Wales, whose leadership and vision inspired it.”