Best time ever for dairy producers in Cornwall says Farmer of the Year
A year of achievement was recorded by the Cornwall Agri-Food Council, which held its AGM at Kingsley Village, Fraddon. Peter Hall reports.
There has never been a better time to be a dairy farmer in Cornwall.
While many may think that a strange assertion, award-winning producer Chris Knowles was adamant the future was very rosy for dairying in the South West.
He told members of CAC: "We are not working within a milk quota scheme in practical terms, We have a brilliant market for our product here. And we have people who have invested significant amounts of money within the industry in Cornwall."
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Roddas at Scorrier have had the confidence to expand – and that has given farmers confidence. And the same could be said for Dairy Crest at Davidstow.
He reported that within the past couple of months he had met two Cornish sheep farmers who had sold their flocks and invested in herds of dairy cows – one of 250 and the other of 400 – younger-generation farmers, with grass-fed cows bought in from Ireland.
"This has to be really heartening, a pivotal moment when people are going into dairying," added Mr Knowles, who was Farmer of the Year at the 2013 WMN Farm Business Awards.
A graduate of Seale-Hayne College, Mr Knowles has worked his family farm at Trink, St Ives for the past 20 years, initially milking 110 cows. But when the milk price crashed he realised he had to take drastic action – and he determined to lessen costs of production.
"I made a lot of mistakes, but learnt by them," he added. He now farms 700 acres, including 200 acres of moorland, the rest pasture. There is a crossbred milking herd of 320.
He added: "I am well aware of the issues we face, TB which is relevant to all dairy farmers in Cornwall. We have to live with it and endure it. And we've been in an unfair and unsustainable trading position. But the milk price has been rising for the past year, and we have the highest price we have ever had, though inflation distorts the value of past payments. The cake price is dropping and so is the fertiliser price."
Last year's weather and one of the coldest springs on record had meant no grass or silage by the end of March – but the past two-and-a-half months had been "just wonderful for dairy farmers" with an enormous flush of grass.
Answering questions he said: "Younger people look at dairying from a business point of view, for its lifestyle . . . and for the enjoyment of it."