Don’t miss this month’s new look Dairy Farmer. Take a look at the digital edition today.
What’s more important to you – the milk price you get or the contract you’re on? Most of you will be highly focused on the price, safe in the knowledge you have an evergreen contract from your processor. But do you? The reality might be different. This month we have farmers being given formal notice by both Meadow Foods and Muller for varying reasons – be it collection size, factory closures or whatever. But one of the increasingly important buyer concerns is public image. This centres chiefly around animal welfare with some of the retailer pools ratcheting up the number of hoops producers have to jump through as a condition of supply. In part that’s because the vegan anti-livestock farming agenda is increasing the paranoia of retailers to levels where farming practices are being imposed which can support their PR defence and allow them a clear-conscience response when challenged.
Indeed, some of the current practices may be fundamentally abhorrent to producers themselves, and such things will be even less acceptable to urban dwellers as they justifiably seek to ascertain the provenance of what they consume. One such thing just being formulated is Arla’s decision to ban the slaughter of any healthy calves under eight weeks of age for all its 2,400 UK producers as from the end of next year. They maintain they are the first to adopt such a position in the UK which is on the basis of ‘moral duty and risk to common perception’. To prevent producers just passing the problem on, Arla is saying that purchasers of these calves will have to o er some guarantee as to their future, and there’s li le doubt that the decision will not be popular with every producer as a condition of co-op membership. But the customer is ultimately right and the sector will simply not have any chance of getting on the front foot with the public if it is tarred with such activities as culling calves at birth. Do nothing, and we could end up with a PR disaster on our hands!