Raise a glass (of milk) to celebrate Februdairy!

Andrew Pemberton with his cattle at Birks Farm, Lytham
Andrew Pemberton with his cattle at Birks Farm, Lytham

Move over Veganuary, there’s a new campaign competing for attention.

This is the month of Februdairy – and Fylde farmer Andrew Pemberton thinks it’s a great idea.

NW Dairy Board chairman Graham Young raises a glass of milk to toast the Februdairy campaign

NW Dairy Board chairman Graham Young raises a glass of milk to toast the Februdairy campaign

It’s an incentive all about promoting all matters milk and was first designated last year as dairy lovers and producers decided to shout out for milk products, hot on the heels of the dairy-shunning Veganuary, which promotes a vegan diet.

Then, it was mostly a social media campaign but the promotion has picked up momentum this year and Andrew, of Lytham’s Birks Farm, thinks it’s great.

“Anything which promotes the benefits of milk has to be welcome,” he said. “It’s a natural food which is the very first we all taste and has so many natural benefits.

“It is important to spread the word to the public about what we do on the farm and how we do it and an incentive such as this is great.

“And when better than February to do it? It’s a great month we farmers really welcome as the days quickly get longer after the dark days of December and January, things start to grow and we can really look forward to spring.”

Andrew’s son Tom, who manages the family farm at Ballam Road, recently won a top national award for his on-line video reports of life on the farm.

He said: “It is important people know what goes on behind the scenes and how local farmers can provide the personal touch.”

“Unless you are milking 400 to 500 cows, you have to diversify to maintain the business and the raw milk machine and shop we have recently introduced are proving very popular.

“We have 300 head of cattle on the farm but only milk 120 as we wait some two years before milking any cow for the first time. We are proud of what we do and it’s always good to be able to shout about it.”

Graham Young, chairman of the National Farmers’ Union North West dairy board welcomes Februdairy as a way “just to keep people focused on the benefits of milk” – and he believes now is a particularly good time to turn the spotlight on the industry.

While the number of dairy farms has dropped dramatically in recent years, and beef and dairy farming comes in for criticism for adding to greenhouse gases, Graham is optimistic about the future.

He said: “When you look at the statistics there’s still 97 per cent of the baskets in supermarkets contain milk. Full fat milk is only four per cent fat. In a lot of supermarkets it’s 3.5 per cent. If you actually drink a litre of milk there’s less fat there than if I ate a Mars bar.”

Graham acknowledges that the dairy sector has had to cope with enormous changes in recent years.

He said: “I was at Myerscough College in 1984 and there were 30,000 dairy farms in the UK. Now there are 9,500.”

But his passion for dairy does not extend to criticising Veganuary.

He said: “If someone chooses to become vegan there’s another farmer growing something for them to eat. It’s great that people have got choice.”

Rebecca Miah, head of dairy marketing at the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB), said: “There’s been very little change in the volume of milk sold per person, however the products which host milk and dairy are changing.

“Younger people are drinking fewer hot drinks, so there’s less chance to add milk to a cuppa and although there’s been some growth in alternatives, shoppers are not replacing dairy.

“While they might be having an almond latte, they’re having a cheddar cheese panini alongside – habits are changing, and we can stay abreast of that.”