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Phil Latham: We need new ideas, a positive attitude to challenge the status quo

livestockfarm lifedairyColumnistsIn your fieldMilk prices+-

I think one of the most important things I learned when doing my Nuffield Scholarship was when I was sat in a vet’s waiting room in New Zealand and read Charles Swindoll’s poem, Attitude. ‘Life is 10 per cent what happens to me and 90 per cent how I react to it’. It’s time like this when we’re under stress that the importance of attitude comes to the fore.


Our milk price continues to head in the wrong direction, the B price is up a bit, but overall there seems to be little reason for the price to move back above the cost of production. There’s no doubt a growing concern about how to cope and who will survive this latest crisis and mutterings about protests and meetings to discuss what we can do.


I attended one such meeting, hosted by the new dairy coalition of organisations, at Market Drayton. I’m not sure how productive these meetings are. They are a symptom of an industry crying out for support and a rallying point for the disillusioned. What do we want? More money! When do we need it? Now! How are we going to get it? Erm, well, let’s think about it. There’s the inevitable desire to act, to shut something, to get out and do something to raise awareness, but we already have public support so I see little merit in upsetting our consumers.


My views are not quite in line with David Handley’s. Having voiced my concerns about the way we engage with the market and the limited prospects for protest to create an up-lift in price given the fact the Office of Fair Trade prosecuted leading supermarkets for collusion when they responded to protest 15 years ago, I was told to sit down by Mr Handley as I was a boy of 45 and he was a man of 63. I think I was in a playground the last time I accepted age as a determinant to the credibility of an argument.


What we need are new ideas, a positive attitude to challenge the status quo, solutions and positive engagement with customers that might create sustainable change. I wonder if Mr Handley might be better recording a cover of Herman’s Hermits ‘no milk today’ with new lyrics to highlight our plight. Who knows, Handley’s Hermits might connect with a new audience ‘no milk today, the markets wouldn’t pay, the cows have gone away’.

 

Phil Latham farms 385ha (950 acres) in Cheshire, split between the family farm on Lord Cholmondeley’s estate and Organsdale Farm near Tarporley. He milks 300 cows, mainly pedigree Brown Swiss, as well as diversifying into business units and an equestrian facility. He is also a Nuffield Scholar.

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