‘Will we still be here next year?’

Martin Burt making a stand'w122807a
Martin Burt making a stand'w122807a

A dairy farmer from Glaisdale has warned the UK will become full of “cow factories” unless a proper contract is drawn up between suppliers and supermarkets.

Martin Burtt led a group of campaigners to London on Wednesday demanding a fairer deal for farmers who fear they are going to have to flog off family farms to combat crippling costs.

Mr Burtt who runs a 150-strong herd at York House in Glaisdale spoke to the Whitby Gazette while at the Great Yorkshire Show on Tuesday.

He said farms across the country, including his own and the other 30 dairy farms in Whitby and the Esk Valley, were all about to reach crisis point.

The price of milk has dropped by 4p per litre with some supermarkets and dairies buying it for 24 to 25p per litre when it is costing the farmer on average 30p per litre to produce.

If a cow produces 7,500 litres per year the farmer could be losing £300 per cow and with the average dairy herd being around 100 it equates to a loss in earnings of £30,000.

Mr Burtt said: “With my 150 cows I am looking at a £40,000 to £50,000 reduction in income which is a massive amount of money. It is totally unsustainable.

“Costs have gone up and down over the years and always have but this is by far the biggest cut and without warning.

“For some it will be the end unless these price cuts are met pretty quickly.”

Mr Burtt said the latest crisis to hit farming only served to prove the need for better contracts between retailers and suppliers.

Options being thrown about at the moment include a 12-month contract but he stressed that wouldn’t work because if the retailer wanted to reduce the price it will pay for milk then the farmer should be able to walk away.

He said: “It only goes to prove that we must have a better contract – all we have is a licence to sell and for someone to take it away from us.

“By having a contract the price would be set for a length of time.”

He took the argument to London and urged ministers to listen to their plight and the possible consequences.

Before he made the trip on Wednesday he told the Gazette: “We want to make such a hoo ha and tell them exactly what we think and demand a contract that is worth the paper it is writtem on.”

He added that supermarkets and national companies should also take into account other factors that are hampering farmers such as the weather.

Mr Burtt said it was too wet to leave cows out in the fields overnight so they were having to bring them in and feed them on sileage, which was being stored for later in the year, rather than grass which in turn is cutting further into costs.

He said: “It is just a domino effect, one thing goes to another and it goes from bad to worse.

“Without a contract the industry will disappear within five to 10 years.

“There will be no milk production in the UK and it will be as stark as that.

“If I have a calf born today that I am going to bring into the herd it is going to be one and a half before it gets put to the bull and three and a half years before the animal produces any milk and any return.

“How can I plan my business on the basis that these people are saying.

“We are heading for big problems – do they want cow factories because that is potentially on the cards.”