Make more use of milk
by Melissa Rollock
Instead of feeling defeated because of reduced revenue from sales, Vice President of the Dairy Farmers Association, Barry Bishop, is encouraging local farmers to form a co-operative to tackle the problems that the dairy industry is currently facing.
In a recent interview Bishop, who operates his farm from his home in East Point, St. Philip, disclosed that since the Pine Hill Dairy reduced his milk quota, he had to dump or give away approximately 500 gallons daily. That amounts to approximately $1,000 in losses each day, he said.
To help ease the impact, he has resorted to leasing out his excess milk to another dairy farmer who is producing under quota. But this is just a temporary measure and he is very much aware that there has to be a more sustainable, long-term plan if the local dairy industry is to survive.
“[As] Vice President of the Dairy Farmers Association I can tell you that the news is not very good. [However] It makes no sense being angry…
“We must act now; we have to start planning for our own facilities and try and see if we can make much more use of the milk. We have to produce some by-products like yogurt, ice-cream, cheese, [and] butter whatever it takes to get the market moving.
“We have to try and see who we can source some funds from up front after doing a feasibility study first, to see if we can make it. Once we get the assistance that we need, then we can move from there as a co-op and try to set up our own plant producing alternatives to fresh milk,” Bishop emphasised.
While some of his colleagues have called it quits — the head count has gone from 40-plus dairy farmers to only 18 at present — Bishop has no plans of retiring. In fact, he is relatively new to dairy farming since he only started out in the business three years ago. He said he found it to be a more viable option than his previous endeavours.
“I would hate to get out of dairy farming after I just got into it. I was producing beef before but then, all of a sudden, the spring seemed to have dried up. I was in beef for about five years and before that, I was in sheep farming for another 10 years. Sheep farming was mostly a hobby because there was no money in sheep.
“With beef, the supermarkets are asking for your bigger animals which means you would have none to reproduce. So, it made no sense continuing there. Once I got out of beef, I took up the offer from another farmer to take over his dairy,” he disclosed.
In three years, Bishop’s farm has grown considerably. He started out with just 40 cows and thanks to good genetics, he now has 170. His animals have brought more than a means to put food on the table. Through the national agricultural festival, better known as Agrofest, they have also brought him much prestige.
He has been entering his animals in the sheep and beef cattle competitions since the inception of the show and every year he walks away with some of the top prizes.
“I win everything that I enter. Last year, I came home with nine prizes including, Top Beef Animal on Show; Top Beef Heifer on Show; and Top Dairy Heifer on Show. Before Agrofest, I was exhibiting at BMEX. The interest at BMEX was great no matter how many animals you carried so that was why I decided to get involved in Agrofest,” he explained.
While Bishop will not be entering any beef cattle this year, he still plans to enter some sheep and a few guinea pigs in Agrofest which will be held in Queen’s Park, The City, from February 22 to 24 under the theme: Renewable Energy – Leading the Charge into the Future.
“Agrofest is really a way of showing that you know what you are doing. The idea of getting involved is to show off your animals, products and your knowledge to show that you know what you are about. It has benefitted me in the sense of prestige. To be able to go to the show and win constantly gives me a sense of satisfaction and pride,” he asserted.
Having worked outside of farming for a number of years — at the Barbados Foundry, Husbands Wrought Iron and then as a Beneficiary Attendant at a Canadian Hospital when he migrated in the 1970s — Bishop cannot imagine doing anything else but farming at this stage in his life.
“Farming was always around me from a boy, when you used to tie the pig under the tree and the goat under the cellar, from those days. I had a goat to look after and milk so it was always with me. There was also a dairy, Edwards Dairy it was called at the time, which was close to my house in St. Matthias.
“I used to go and watch the guys milking the cows so I always had an interest in dairy farming and farming in general,” Bishop said, adding that his seven-year-old son is interested in farming.