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County could lose 300 farms

THREE hundred Cheshire dairy farms could go to the wall over the next five years, it was claimed this week.

THREE hundred Cheshire dairy farms could go to the wall over the next five years, it was claimed this week.

The warning came as farmers in the county were forced to accept lower milk prices.

Cheshire has the second largest dairy industry in the UK after Devon with more than 100,000 cattle and 900 holdings.

As milk producers in the region come under increasing pressure the familiar sight of Cheshire's fields full of black and white dairy cows could change dramatically.

This week Robert Wiseman dairies, a major milk processor in the North West, cut the price they pay for milk by 0.65p a litre in response to a larger cut last month by Arla Foods, a major competitor.

Now the regions' dairy farm-ers are questioning whether there is a future for the Cheshire milk industry.

Father-of-two Stuart Roberts, of Park Hall Farm, Clotton, said: 'We're paying the price for the greed and power of the super-markets. In the last 10 years the price we get for a litre of milk has decreased from 24p to 19p, yet in the last 12 years the profit the supermarkets make on a litre of milk has gone up from 1.4p to 14p.'

He added: 'I think the customer could get the milk a little bit cheaper and the farmers could get a little bit more money for the product.

'I believe 30% of the UK milk industry will finish in the next five years.

Phil Hodgson, of Oxheys Farm, Rushton, who has around 180 dairy cattle on his farm, explained that on an average sized dairy farm like his own the recent cut would cost £7,000.

Kevin Peacock, 35, of Fields Farm in Calveley, said: 'Our costs are going up all the time and yet we're getting less money for milk.

'At the same time the price the supermarket charge is steadily increasing.

'We're working 80 hours a week just to make a living and so many people are leaving the industry.

'I'm one of the last of my generation to stay in dairy farming and I don't know if there'll be anything left to pass on to my three-year-old son.'

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