Prince Charles expands pilot scheme to support more dairy farmers
A scheme to help struggling dairy farmers, which is backed by Prince Charles and aids ten milk producers in the South West, is to be expanded.
Since last year the pilot programme of the Prince's Dairy Initiative has supported 74 farmers across the country through business-led workshops, to boost the efficiency and viability of their businesses.
All participating farmers are still trading and are now doing things differently on their farms. Following the success of the pilot, the scheme now aims to support 300 farmers over the next three years.
Somerset and Devon are one of five regions involved in the scheme.
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The scheme was begun with the aim of halting the decline of dairy farmers, when, at the time, nine were going out of business every week across the country. Currently there are around 14,500 nationally and 2,500 in the Westcountry.
Yesterday Prince Charles announced the expansion of the scheme, which is run in partnership with the charity Business in the Community and DairyCo, the levy-funded organisation paid for by all milk producers.
Prince Charles said participating farmers would be able to attend five practical workshops provided by leading experts in the dairy sector on topics such as herd health and financial management.
They would get free benchmarking of their production costs through DairyCo's Milkbench scheme, and advice from experts on opportunities to reduce costs and improve technical farm performance. They would also be able to access to a network of local farmers to share knowledge and best-practice performance.
One of the pilot participants, Ray Gibbins, who runs a 153-cow family dairy farm near Cullompton, said: "Our business faces so many challenges. In the short term, it's maintaining a healthy herd and paying the bills. Looking further ahead, it's finding the personal belief and external backing to invest in improvements for the business and make us more efficient for the future.
"Sharing our data with other farmers has helped us identify our strengths and our weaknesses, and look hard at our current practices.
"From a personal perspective, meeting Prince Charles and realising the passion he shares with us to maintain the family farm, was hugely reassuring.
"Dairy farming will always involve commitment and long hours, but if the Prince's Dairy Initiative assists in ensuring the key financial aspects are strong enough, other rewards such as the satisfaction of running a healthy herd and looking after the land for future generations can be enjoyed."
Prince Charles thanked business leaders from some of the largest dairy companies for their financial and practical support of the scheme. They include the farmer co-op Arla Milk Link, Dairy Crest, Müller-Wiseman, Wyke Farms, and Yeo Valley.