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DAIRY EVENT - Next Generation Committed to Dairying

17 September 2009

UK - The British Dairy sector has a bright future with 60 per cent of agriculture students expressing an interest in dairy farming according to a survey by the Royal Association of British Dairy Farmers.

However, the association says that the commitment of these young farmers depends on dairying being profitable.

And this calls for processors, retailers and foodservice operators agreeing a consistent and sustainable milk price, RABDF chairman Lyndon Edwards said at the Dairy Event in Stoneleigh, Warwickshire.

"Continuing fall out from the industry coupled with the fact that the alleged average age of dairy farmers in 55 years, led us to question does UK dairy farming really have a future, a national herd and critically, enough people to manage and milk it?" Mr Edwards said.

"To find out for ourselves, last month, RABDF conducted two surveys: one for dairy farmers and one for students.

"In the first instance, the findings indicated that the average age of the farmer is 49 years and the average age of the herdsman is a sprightly 42 years, while 48 per cent of farmers indicated they knew who would succeed them.

"However, just over 60 per cent of agriculture students said they were interested in a career in dairying with 80 per cent of those actually committed to milking cows.

"However, 61 per cent of farmers did not know anyone under 25 years old looking for a career in dairy farming, while 64 per cent indicated they would be interested in taking a student placement, which suggests there is a need for a marriage bureau to bring the two together."

Mr Edwards added: "Surprisingly, lifestyle was the main attraction to dairying for these students; working with livestock came top at 97 per cent, working outdoors 82 per cent and way of life 63 per cent, while just over half the students appreciated the sector's daily new challenges."

High investment costs, farm availability and lack of opportunities for entry were among the biggest challenges to students from a non-dairying background.

Mr Edwards added: "We asked farmers their opinion on how young people can be encouraged into the industry from a business perspective.

"The resounding response was the need for essential profitability, a higher milk price and opportunity for investment, which in turn would help to counter those long unsocial hours.

"I believe the survey responses reflect the truly unstoppable nature of our dairy farmers, regardless of age, their resilience to hardship and their immense propensity to adapt to new challenges."

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