Gallons of fresh milk going down the drain as West Country farmers struggle in lockdown

Dairy farmers in the region are having to throw their milk away because they have no one to sell it to. Farmers supplying cafes, hotels and airlines have been left with no market since the start of the coronavirus lockdown.

This is the sad reality for Josette Feddes and her herd of 250 cows at Jojo’s Dairy in Wanborough near Swindon.

It feels horrible. It's all your hard work. We put so much love and care into these animals and it's not just once; it's twice a day. It's a bit like your own children. And putting that down the drain - it gives me shivers now, basically.

Josette Feddes

The milk from Josette's cows was going to chains like Costa, Starbucks, Wetherspoons, and some airlines. Now they have closed there is no market for the milk, and yet the supply - the cows - cannot be turned off.

Fresh milk being poured down the drain at Jojo’s Dairy. Credit: ITV West Country

Each of Josette’s cows produces around 24 litres of milk a day. If the milk is not removed from them it can cause severe pain and infections like mastitis. Even with calves suckling, the cows would still need excess milk removing. So, whatever the economy is doing, farmers have to carry on milking.

Dairy cows, like these on Josette’s farm, are bred to produce large amounts of milk every day. Credit: ITV West Country

That leaves Josette with 6000 litres a day to get rid of, and a dwindling income. She has set up a drive-through milk-buying service for local people but it will not plug the gap.

The Government has relaxed competition laws to allow shops and milk suppliers to work together. Farmers who do not usually supply shops can now do so. But even if you can find a buyer for your milk, all the excess has pushed prices down. The National Farmers' Union says more help is needed.

The fantastic array of government packages that can hopefully help so many businesses in this part of the world - right now for our farmers and our processors, the majority of that we cannot access. So looking again at those packages [is what we want the Government to do].

Melanie Squires, Regional Director, NFU South West

Watch Caron Bell's full report:

The NFU’s position is echoed by Labour, who are also pressing for more government intervention.

Every pint down the gutter is a pint not being paid for and that puts the future of our entire dairy sector at risk.

Luke Pollard MP, Shadow Environment Secretary

While these political discussions continue, the milk will keep flowing, whether anyone is buying it or not.