May 23 2013 Latest news:
Saturday, March 2, 2013
Norfolk farmers’ leader Ken Proctor said that farmers and growers must work together to fight on behalf of their industry.
He is also the first dairy farmer to become chairman of Norfolk National Farmers’ Union for almost two decades.
Mr Proctor, of Grange Farm, Shipdham, near Dereham, said that the success of last year’s SOS Dairy campaign showed what farmers can achieve when they join forces.
“SOS Dairy was phenomenal. It wasn’t just dairy farmers who took part in the London rally - we had farmers from lots of different sectors, including large arable farmers, who came along as well to show their support,” he said.
“It highlights the importance of farmers pulling together to tackle the issues we face. Our industry is rich in social capital because farmers know so many people and can learn so much from fellow farmers. We have a great community and we need to make the most of it.”
Ken, who is a former president of Europe’s largest pedigree breed society, Holstein UK, runs a large dairy farm. The family also involves his wife Rebecca and sons Robert and Ralph.
They milk about 370 Holstein cows, with annual production of up to four million litres of milk. A dozen years ago, the family’s Airfield herd was in the top ten of UK producers but the business focus changed to economic production of milk at the lowest possible cost.
“I always wanted to be a farmer. I was brought up on the family farm at Boughton near Stoke Ferry and moved to Shipdham when I was 21 and married Rebecca. This was her dad’s farm originally.
Mr Proctor, who also had a pedigree herd of Charolais beef cattle, decided to concentrate on milk production. “We built up the dairy herd slowly to about 150 cows and then expanded more rapidly when Robert came back from Australia with lots of new ideas,” he said.
The East of England has seen a large fall in dairy farm numbers in recent years but the Proctors are continuing to invest in the business at Grange Farm.
“We’re a family farm here and I think businesses like ours are the lynchpin of farming. I’m very keen to keep them going,” he added.
Over the years, the family has invested heavily to comply with strict pollution prevention measures for the dairy enterprise, which involved total spending of about £400,000. At the same time, innovations have included a sand recycling system for the dairy cows because the inert substance has improved herd health and hygiene. Other measures haqve included rubber mats in the parlour to prevent cows from slipping during milking and installing large electric brushes in the cattle sheds so the cows can ‘groom’ themselves.
They are also installing 2.5 km of water ring main around the farm for irrigating crops, fed from the farm’s five million gallon reservoir.
Ken is proud to be taking over as NFU county chairman in what will be a challenging period for the industry, with reform of the Common Agricultural Policy high on the agenda.
“This is desperately important for agriculture. We really want it to be simplified and less unwieldy but there is still a long way to go before agreement is reached,” he said.
“Other issues we need to get to grips with include tackling bovine TB, regulation and rural crime, which is a major concern in Norfolk.”
Ken succeeded Francis Ulrych, of Park Farm, Griston, who completed his two-year term as NFU county chairman
Norfolk turkey giant Bernard Matthews is in talks to sell a stake in the business.