Letter: A dairy farmer appeals for help

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Letter: A dairy farmer appeals for help

Sir: For the moment the BSE disaster is not making the headlines. I would like to give people an insight into how it has affected me and my family and many like us, to see if there is anyone who can help us out of this nightmare.

I run a herd of 120 cows and produce 700,000 litres of milk per year. My farm is rented and we have borrowed heavily to make the facilities as comfortable for the cows as we can afford.

Our milk production is restricted by a quota system. In 1984 our quota allocation was 37,000 litres approximately, which was a 10 per cent cut on what we produced in the years preceding. Since then we have been cut another 10 per cent in various lots. This seems crazy, for as a nation we are not self-sufficient in dairy products.

If you want to produce more, you have to buy or lease in more quota. We have always leased, not being in a position to buy. In the last two years the price has gone up to an average of about 12p per litre per year. This year, because of the huge backlog of cows waiting to be culled but still giving milk - on BSE grounds they are not permitted to be used for meat because of their age - the price has reached 17.5p average. This price is totally uneconomic but has to be paid just to stay in business. Our average milk price is 25p a litre. If we over-produce we are fined 31p a litre, but the milk is still sold and used by the dairy companies.

The outcome of this is that we will have to cull 50 cows. These cows would have had several years of productive life ahead of them. Also, our young bull calves are being slaughtered at between 4 and 20 days old, for which we are paid pounds 90 per calf.

This all goes completely against what we are about in farming. We farm because we love the countryside and the tending of animals.

I went into farming to continue from my father what I thought was a worthwhile job to produce wholesome food. My father went into it because he as a prisoner in Burma had always been hungry. We are desperate for a way forward.

TIM EDWARDS

Burford, Oxfordshire

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