Huge investment is required on dairy farms to protect them from climat change and secure the long term supply of milk in the UK.

That was the stark warning from a Kite Consulting report that estimates the cost to the industry/sector at more than £3.9bn, with a large proportion of this amount required for increasing clamp and slurry storage capacity.

“With recent milk price sitting at, or even below, the cost of production, farms have not been able to make the investments needed to build climate resilience into their business. The resultant risk to the security of milk supply has been uncovered in this report,” says Becki Reay, of Kite Consulting.

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She added that the report was based on data from 850 UK dairy farms.

“Farmers have simply not been able to afford to invest in silage and slurry storage capacity or the extra land required to produce silage, that will help ensure milk production against the climate threats of drought and flood.

“The short term impact during these periods of extreme weather is that we will see production fall on farms and longer term, others will leave the sector. The conversation around the cost of milk production and pricing needs to change in order to reflect the position we are in,” she says.

The data shows 1350 tonnes of additional silage storage is needed per farm to increase farm resilience to extreme weather and that 85% of dairy farms have less than the eight months of slurry storage which would be deemed to make them resilient to extreme weather events. The report estimates that the cost of capital infrastructure investments and additional land required to ensure environmental resilience is £472,539 per average UK dairy farm, or an additional 2.4ppl per year for 10 years.

“The level of investment needed will have to come from the market. It is important that consumers understand that higher milk prices will be helping to fund food security.

"Farmers will use this money to make the investments needed to guarantee food supply in a volatile world. Consumers will need to see this extra cost as an insurance against extreme weather events and to ensure a resilient, sustainable British milk supply,” she added.