Dairy herds fall to lowest level since regards began amid rising costs

There are now just under 800 milking herds left, with the industry losing 20 farms over the last year alone.

The number of dairy herds in Scotland has fallen to its lowest level since records began as producers struggle with rising production costs.

There are now just under 800 milking herds left and, according to new figures, the industry has lost 20 farms over the last year.

Orkney has been worst hit with three farms going out of production in the area in the last six months alone.

Willie Hourie is one of only 11 dairy producers left on the islands.

He told STV News: “I think in my father’s time it was over 100. The creamery where we were producing Orkney cheese at premium profit is like every other industry – facing high, high energy costs.

“Their cheese price is dropping so they have to pass that drop onto us, so it’s a big concern.”

Survival on the island has also been down to diversifying.

Willie’s daughter Lara produces a range of dairy products from the farm.

She said: “We have been able to get a much better price for our milk rather than what the supermarkets would allow us to have, so the product margin has been a lot better.”

Dairy farmers say they are facing an uncertain period after a recent drop in the price of milk.

Rocketing output costs mean more and more farmers are struggling to survive.

The Mackie family have been farming At Middleton of Rora for over a generation.

Their pedigree dairy herd is one of only 14 in Aberdeenshire – but a decade ago there were almost 40.

Diversification has been key to the farm staying in an industry which has been hit hard in recent years.

Farmer Bruce Mackie said: “We have gone organic which has been one of our things. It’s a little bit of a niche and we are very keen on biodiversity, so that fits in well with that.

“We make yoghurt here and that gives us another angle to go, it employs a few more people  and represents a quarter of the turnover of the farm so it’s an important aspect to that.”

The National Farmers Union of Scotland has been contacted for comment.

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