World Milk Day - Let's celebrate The White Stuff

World Milk Day, the annual celebration of milk which takes place annually on 1 June, has been a fixed date in the calendar for two decades writes NFU Scotland’s Milk Committee Chair and dairy farmer, Gary Mitchell.

Focussing on social media, World Milk Day - - shines a light on all the fantastic activities that surround the dairy sector.  This year, it will focus on sustainability with messages around the environment, nutrition and socioeconomics. 

In 2001, World Milk Day was established by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations to recognise the importance of milk as a global food, and to celebrate the dairy sector. Each year since, the benefits of milk and dairy products have been actively promoted around the world, including how dairy supports the livelihoods of one billion people.

Milk and dairy foods remain hugely important sources of several nutrients which contribute to health and are packed with calcium, phosphorus, B vitamins and potassium.  Plus, it is an excellent source of protein.

But as we celebrate the benefits of the product that all dairy farmers work hard to produce, it is important to keep focussed on what drives our businesses forward.

At farm gate level, the last 12 months has been a difficult time for all, but green shoots of optimism are showing.  Many milk buyers have recently announced price increases for the forthcoming months, but several questions still need to be answered of the future of the industry in the UK. 

The UK average farm-gate milk price for April 2021 was 29.15 pence per litre, a price which I know a number of farmers in Scotland were not receiving.  And what is even more concerning is the fact that the gap between the lowest and highest paid is now very significant and showing no signs of narrowing.  When you throw into the mix the latest data from AHDB around the full economic cost of production, you begin to see that all is not rosy at farm gate level for many in Scotland.

But this is not a farmer rant about prices, the statistics speak for themselves. In January 2021, dairy herd figures for Scotland, released by the Scottish Dairy Cattle Association, highlighted a decrease in cow numbers and dairy herds with a net loss of 36 herds and 2152 fewer cows compared to January 2020.    In Scotland, there are now 843 dairy herds, nearly 7,000 less than 50 years ago. 

If we all want to be able to celebrate World Milk Day in the future, these figures and statistics will need to change.

On World Milk Day, like every other day, we all have a duty to be positive about our industry and help promote where and when we can.  

Recent manifesto pledges made pre-Scottish election committed to work with local authorities to develop a fully funded free school milk scheme which provides for children’s dietary needs. 

This is a fantastic opportunity to increase milk uptake in Scotland and form a strong bond with the consumers of tomorrow.  

This dovetails superbly well with the news earlier this year that a new Milk and Healthy Snack Scheme has been set up to fund a daily serving of milk and a healthy snack for pre-school children.  The Scheme aims to ensure that as many pre-school children in day care as possible will receive a daily serving of milk to support the development of healthy eating habits for later life.

If you are users of social media, in addition to getting involved in #worldmilkday I would urge all users on twitter to follow @dairyuk who put out so many positive messages out about the benefits of consuming dairy products.  

A lot of the information can be found here  an excellent resource in myth busting and presenting the key features of dairy in a positive light.  It is important we spread these positive messages far and wide.

Happy World Milk Day!

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