Oxfordshire farms 'halve in a decade', new figures show

The number of dairy farms in Oxfordshire has fallen by 50% in a decade, new figures show.

DairyCo said there were 92 in September 2003, but only 46 in 2013. Nationally the fall was about 37%.

Farming chiefs blamed the image of the industry, the tough nature of the work and the poor milk price.

However a Defra spokesman said British milk industry was "robust", adding production hit a 10-year high in October.

"We're working with farmers to help them export British milk, yoghurt and cheeses across the world to make the most of the booming global market, which is expected to grow at 2% a year for the next decade," he added.

Nigel Stacey from the National Farmers' Union in the south east said the current decline was a "major, major concern".

"If you look at the straight line figures, that would suggest that in 10 years' time that we'll have half the number of dairy farmers we have now," he added.

"I don't think that if the number of dairy farmers declined, the increased production on the herds that are left would fill the gap."

'Opportunity to prosper'

Rachael Chamberlayne from DairyCo, which works on behalf of Britain's dairy farmers, said the decline was "significant".

"We've got to remember we've had really challenging times for our dairy farmers," she said.

"Oxfordshire traditionally has quite a mix of farming types.

"So, what we want to be able to do for those farmers that remain is to make sure they have the opportunity to prosper forward."

Ms Chamberlayne added the number of dairy farms in Oxfordshire had fallen by about 8% from December 2012 to December 2013.

In England, the fall was 2% to 3%, although she warned Oxfordshire had relatively few dairy farms compared with areas such as Devon.

She said strategies which included diversifying and exporting more dairy products may help to "revive the business" across the country in the future.

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