Last week's Semex event, in Glasgow, was my first conference as strategy director for dairy at AHDB and after 11 years at First Milk, I enjoyed seeing the presentations and the debate from a fresh perspective.

Our job at AHDB Dairy is to support farmers, to offer them the tools, guidance and support to ensure they thrive, and of course to clearly communicate what that offering is so they can take advantage of it.

In order that our farmers can thrive, we need our industry be more outward looking, inspired by the best systems and practices in the world.

That means a joined-up approach to driving efficiency, with every level of the chain working together for the benefit of all.

At AHDB, we need to work in partnership with others to make this happen and I encourage farmer unions, processors, retailers and others in the wider industry who wants to see a successful dairy sector to work constructively alongside us.

Last week at Semex, NFUS vice-chair, Gary Mitchell, questioned whether we were spending money on promoting our industry. We are and this is one of our key priorities.

Farmers tell us that promotion of the dairy sector should be a key priority for AHDB and we agree, which is why we have are jointly funding a campaign with Dairy UK to remind consumers of the nutritional value of milk. The campaign launched in November and there will be a further blast of activity in February.

We are also equipping farmers to do the same thing through social media with the website This provides farmers with the tools to promote the nutritional benefits of dairy to consumers of all ages via social media, along with guidance and knowledge to support them in effectively communicating their messages.

And we are doing much more. At AHDB we are focused on four main targets:

• Improving the performance of our dairy farmers relative to our main international competitors;

• Achieving sustained improvement in animal lifetime productivity;

• Positively influencing consumer attitudes to dairy and propensity to purchase on domestic and international markets;

• Improving satisfaction ratings for AHDB Dairy products and services.

While British dairy farmers already possess some competitive advantages, there is a wide variation in costs of production and nett margins on British farms. In short, there is room for improvement and that is where we come in.

We support the industry through initiatives like the Scottish Dairy Hub (which we jointly fund with the Scottish Government). This has grown significantly over the years and has seen a five-fold increase in the number of enquiries it responds to since it was established in 2014.

Another key project is our optimal dairy systems' work and will be working with farmers across the UK on optimising either a block calving or all year round system to increase industry profitability and competitiveness.

We want to encourage consumers to buy dairy products, and refute anti-dairy messages, and we will continue to fund work in this area. But we also want to see more efficient farms with access to cutting edge research, business support tools and growing export markets. We want to make the most of advances in genomics and genetics while ensuring the healthiest livestock which thrives in optimal conditions.

That’s why our activities are diverse; we cannot help the dairy industry in just one or two ways, we need to take a broad approach to support this large, vibrant and varied sector. We are always open to levy payer feedback, so please keep it coming.

Paul Flanagan

AHDB Dairy strategy director.