Dairy farm businesses under threat, according to NFU survey

15 August 2023


NFU dairy board chair Michael Oakes

Britain’s dairy farmers are being forced to think seriously about their future due to concerns over insufficient returns, volatile markets and the scale of on-farm investment, a new NFU survey shows.

The survey of nearly 600 dairy farmers’ intentions reveals 9% of producers believe they are likely to stop producing milk by 2025 – up from 7% last year. A further 23% said they were "unsure" if their business would continue producing milk beyond 2025.

87% of dairy farmers who responded said they are concerned about the impact of government regulation, with feed prices (84%), energy prices (83%) and cash flow and profitability (80%) other key factors that would curtail milk supplies.

Meanwhile, 91% of dairy farmers said the main factor to them increasing milk production would be the scale of investment needed for things such as suitable slurry storage to ensure their farms are compliant - this supports the NFU call for Defra’s Surry Infrastructure Grant to be extended to cover more areas and to lower the minimum spend threshold needed to access the funding.

NFU dairy board chair Michael Oakes said: “It’s clear that significant inflationary pressures combined with below cost of production prices are continuing to put the resilience of British dairy farming businesses under threat. We are now facing a crisis of confidence among Britain’s dairy farmers.

“The results of this survey show that, now more than ever, we need resilient and collaborative dairy supply chains. It’s vital we reverse this trend of boom or bust and invest in our supply chains. New industry-wide regulation on contracts, expected to be introduced later this year, must support fairer, more transparent and accountable supply chains. But regulation isn’t a silver bullet.

“With increasing global demand for British dairy, we know that the long-term future is bright for our sector. To ensure we maximise this potential, it’s imperative that government continues to work with us to ensure we have the right environmental, regulatory and trade framework in place to support the production of high quality, nutritious and sustainable food.”


Notes to editor:

  • The NFU Dairy Intentions Survey asked our dairy farmer members to fill out a short survey to help capture their plans to increase, decrease, or stop milk production and the main reasons why.
  • The survey was carried out between 5 July and 30 July 2023. 590 dairy farmers responded.
  • Contact the NFU press office for more information from the survey.
  • AHDB numbers for April 2023 suggest there are an estimated 7,500 dairy producers in Great Britain. This is down 4.8% on the previous year.
  • More on the NFU Dairy Exports Strategy here.
  • On the environmental framework dairy farmers operate in, the NFU’s main ask is to ensure future environmental support schemes, such as the Sustainable Farming Incentive, also provide a financially attractive and accessible offer to dairy farmers.