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Super Dairy Plans ‘Supermarket Driven’

Created on 26/08/2010 @ 12:51
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Cheap milk on the supermarket shelf is the driving force behind Wales’s first super dairy, but it could drive smaller farmers out of business.
The claims have been made following a lively public meeting last night attended by more than 100 concerned Leighton residents who are set to have a 1,000-cow ‘super dairy’ constructed next to the Primary School.
Applicant Fraser Jones, 30, gave an informative one-hour address before facing 30 minutes of questions, during which he underlined the dire situation that he and other local dairy farmers faced due to market forces driving down prices.
Reaction to the meeting was mixed, and the application is set to be heard soon by a Powys County Council Planning Meeting.
Our correspondent said:
“It was informative and I feel that people warmed to him once they heard the plans for the development and the reason behind it straight from the horse’s mouth. I think what startled people was the dire situation that the dairy farmers face. Fraser pointed out that it was costing him 30p a litre to produce the milk but he was only receiving 25p a litre from the buyer. I felt he won over a skeptical audience with his presentation and his answers to some very tricky questions. There are still objectors, for sure, but a lot of people left the meeting feeling that it would be wrong to stifle progress and that to stop young innovative farmers from developing projects could bring about their demise.”
Mr. Jones’s three million-pound development will include a three-span cubicle for year-round housing and a 72-point rotary parlour. The Leighton unit would eventually incorporate a US-style slurry system coupled with an anaerobic digestion plant for electricity generation.
But one local smaller dairy farmer from Guilsfield is concerned, comparing the impact that the super dairy will have to the way large supermarkets hit trade in local town centres.
“It is very hard,” he said. “The shopper expects cheaper milk all the time which means the bulk buyer is always looking to cut the prices that they are willing to pay us because they will get it cheaper elsewhere. We simply can’t compete and if these super dairies become commonplace then it will be very tough for a lot of the dairy herds in Wales to survive.”
Currently Wales produces more than 1.5 billion litres of milk from 2,300 dairy herds annually.
mywelshpool highlights the main concerns and compromises
The size
The development will cover a huge area of rural farmland which borders the school. Mr. Jones pledged to tidy up the whole Lower Leighton area and stagger the development work over five years. He will also use trees and bushes to ensure large parts of the development remain hidden from public view.
Animal welfare
Claims were made that the 1,000 cows will be ‘factory farmed’. Mr. Jones stated that animal welfare is of utmost importance, pointing out that cows will be kept indoors for 250 days during their lactation and then outdoors for the remaining 115 days of the year. He said the sheds will have specially designed floors, natural ventilation and more room to lie down than current facilities offer.
Pollution from smell and noise
Residents are concerned that the sheer number of cows and their location to the school will pose a problem and that the extra machinery will generate more noise. Mr. Jones explained that strict health and safety guidelines will be adhered to at all times with his application ticking many of the boxes outlined in the Welsh Assembly 2020 report that advocates such a system will help reduce carbon emissions from dairy herds.
Traffic chaos caused by cows crossing
Mr. Jones stressed that he has studied a number of solutions and has proposed one that would see a decrease in cows crossing the roads from the current herd of 200.
How will the local community benefit?
Mr. Jones has pledged to use local contractors where possible and will endeavour to employ local staff. However, his father Maurice revealed in an interview with the Daily Post this summer that half of the staff is Polish, saying that “we can’t get Brits, they only want 9-5 jobs”. Mr. Jones has also pledged to donate land to the community for the construction of two tennis courts.
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