TRURO - Despite some "flat" results in the past year, the dairy industry is not in crisis, says a local farmer.
Jim Burrows, owner of Clover Crest Farm Ltd. in Green Oaks, was one of about 200 people who attended the 12th Dairy Farmers of Nova Scotia annual general meeting at the Best Western Glengarry on Wednesday. Burrows told the Truro Daily News despite ups and downs in the industry, there is encouragement.
"The demand in the last 12 months has been flat, but you can't have an increase every year. We are not in crisis," said Burrows, adding last year presented one of the best growing conditions, weather-wise, in a long time.
Burrows also said decreases in profit may not result in as much of a hardship compared to other industries.
"There is significant stability (and) we see increases and decreases gradually over time. Provincially, it's generally one or two per cent up or down so it's easier to deal with," he said.
Burrows, who has owned his farm for more than 30 years, has about 160 head of cattle and two full-time employees. He said some challenges this year include public perception of what farmers do.
"Public perspective is sometimes not based in reality. They look at the environmental (practices) and animal welfare and question what (farmers) are doing sometimes, but they don't realize our operating standards ... and don't see the overall situation," which can be misleading to the general public, Burrows said.
One aspect of the industry that contributes to Burrows' success, he said, is growing his own grain products, therefore not having to invest financially in grain from other areas that would increase his cost output.
"Grain prices have grown significantly by 30 to 50 per cent in 12 months because of the U.S. drought."
Stewiacke farm owner Havey Whidden, who doesn't grow most of his own crops, said his profits "were strained" last year.
"Feed costs are huge to any farm and weather in other places in the world increase feed costs," said Whidden, who is chairman of the Dairy Farmers of Nova Scotia. Whidden owns 100 cows and employs two full-time workers and one part-time person on his Stewiacke farm, which he has had for about 35 years.
"I don't think we'd grow our own crops because we'd need a huge quantum leap in equipment and land ... and I like to focus on the cattle."
Whidden said it's reasonable to expect ups and downs in any industry and continued public support greatly helps farmers during fluctuating markets.
"Sometimes people feel food is overpriced but they don't understand all the various steps it goes through to get it on the table," said Whidden, adding, "but I think there's a lot of support by the public (because) they consider as reputable people."
Brian Cameron, the general manager of Dairy Farmers of Nova Scotia, said the two-day meeting in Truro, which continues today, has a lot of value. In addition to hearing reports and discussing industry challenges and opportunities, the gathering promotes networking between farmers and representatives of provincial milk marketing boards.
"It creates opportunities for boards to work together ... and that can always lead to good things," said Cameron.
According to Dairy Farmers of Nova Scotia and its website:
- There are 236 registered farms in Nova Scotia.
- Canada has about 12,500 farms.
- There were an estimated 15,000 farms in the country five years ago.
- Dairy Farmers of Nova Scotia has about 250. members, who as a group produce more than 165 million litres of milk every year.