Wellbeing of dairy farmers and staff is critical

Thursday 9th September 2021, IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Staff and wellbeing critical to achieving animal welfare and climate reduction goals, say UK dairy farmers

The importance of staff and wellbeing has been highlighted by dairy farmers in the first workshop hosted by the Food Ethics Council – part of 3-year project to help drive positive change in the dairy sector

  • The Food Ethics Council is working with dairy farmers to help them accelerate positive change for people, planet and animals across the UK dairy sector
  • The Dairy Project involves a series of workshops and dialogues on ethics and fairness with UK dairy farmers
  • A second workshop will take place at UK Dairy Day in Telford on September 15th

The welfare and wellbeing of people working on dairy farms is as much a priority as animals and the environment. That was one of a number of take-aways from the first workshop of a new 3-year project being facilitated by the Food Ethics Council.

An initial workshop with dairy farmers from across the UK took place at the Groundswell Show in June. And a second workshop will be taking place at the UK Dairy Day event in Telford on September 15th. The participants taking part run a variety of dairy systems, including organic and zero-grazing setups across England, Wales and Scotland.

Topics discussed in the first workshop included competition between farms, the challenges of building a sustainable business, and the cost constraints on making improvements to staff wellbeing.

Staffordshire dairy farmer and AHDB dairy board member Liz Haines, who chaired the first workshop, said: We already try and do a good job of looking after our cows, but I think we could do more to improve working conditions for staff. In terms of what I would like to change to make our farm more ethical, I would love to be able to offer my employees more flexible working hours, to have people doing more flexible rotas or to have people who come in at 5am and run home at lunchtime.” 

Sussex dairy farmer and Nuffield scholar Keith Gue, who took part in the first discussion, added: “We are actively looking to make the life of our team more manageable. This includes looking at moving them to salaries and in some instances reducing their hours. People who are less tired and less stressed do a better job, and then the cows are healthier, and then you ship more milk.”

Speaking before the first workshop, Joe Delves, who runs four dairy farms across East and West Sussex, said: “I want to give my kids a business that makes money without damaging people and everyone around them. You could have the most ethical business in the world, but you have to make money. In farming especially people are scared to talk about profit because the end user will take a bit of money off you or not be happy about you making it yourself.”

Welcoming the initial workshop findings, Food Ethics Council executive director Dan Crossley, said: “If we want the health & wellbeing of our animals and planet to improve, we can’t ignore the people responsible for looking after them. Farmers can, and want to, drive positive change. But dairy farmers and their teams need space, flexibility and reward. With the right support, society will benefit from accelerating the transition to more ethical dairy systems in the UK.”

Notes for Editors:

For further information about the project, interviews and attending the next workshop please contact: tomlevitt@foodethicscouncil.org

Food Ethics Council is an independent UK think tank whose purpose is to bring ethics to the centre of the food system. Our mission is to accelerate the shift towards fair food systems that respect people, animals and the planet. Twitter: @FoodEthicsNews

See here for an overview of the Food Ethics Council’s Dairy Project.