Fewer dairy farmers leave industry despite challenges - AHDB

The number of producers dropped 2% over last year
calendar icon 1 June 2022
clock icon 2 minute read


According to a recent Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) survey of major milk buyers, in April 2022 there were an estimated 7,880 dairy producers in GB. This is a reduction of 160 producers (2.0%) compared with the survey we undertook this time last year. This is a slower rate of exit than we have seen in the previous few years, despite the high cost pressures farmers have been under since last summer.

The latest figures suggest that the average volume per farm in GB is 1.57 million litres, level with October 2021 and very slightly up on April 2021.

Getting a true picture of the number of dairy producers in the country is often difficult due to the different reporting methods used, said the AHDB report.

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) can be used to track producer numbers across England and Wales, based on the number of farmers registered to produce milk. However, deregistering is voluntary, and therefore unlikely to be top of the “to do” list for a farmer leaving the industry. The FSA will often only capture this cessation when a regular check is carried out. These checks occur on a 10-year basis (for those registered with Red Tractor) or a 2-year basis otherwise. This means FSA numbers will often over-state the number of dairy farmers in the country.

Defra carry out a survey on the number of dairy holdings across the UK, which returns a figure considerably higher than our estimate. This is because it includes all farms with a dairy cow over two years old with offspring. Around a third of those holdings had fewer than 10 cows, meaning they are unlikely to be commercial dairy farms, and would be excluded from our estimate.

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