Cow muck ‘worth more than milk’

Proving the old adage that where there’s muck there’s brass, Yorkshire farmer David Metcalfe said his family farm was now earning about £50,000 a year, and saving up to another £100,000, by generating electricity from slurry.

By contrast, Metcalfe Farms was losing a “considerably” greater sum of money on the milk produced from its herd of 900 dairy cows, he said, as low dairy prices meant the farm was having to sell it at a loss.

Dairy cows' slurry is now worth more than their milk
Mr Metcalfe’s cows in the parlour CREDIT: NORTH NEWS AND PICTURES


Mr Metcalfe, 51, said: “We’ve reached the crazy point where muck is worth more than milk and if that doesn’t show the plight of British dairy farmers I don’t know what does.

“The world milk production level is now so high that we’re getting just 20p a litre which means it costs more to produce than to sell.

“It’s a desperate situation and farmers all over the country are trying to find new ways of balancing their books.”

Slurry has become a cash cow for farmers thanks to lucrative subsidies offered by the Government for green energy generation.

The slurry is first turned into biogas through an anaerobic digestion plant, and can then be burnt to generate electricity.

The power produced in this way qualifies for subsidies, funded by energy bill-payers, under the Government’s ‘feed in tariff’ scheme. Additional subsidies are paid for surplus electricity which is not used by the farm and is sold to the National Grid.

Mr Metcalfe said his farm profited from the scheme thanks to a joint venture with another company, JFS & Associates, which had paid the £1.8m cost of building the anaerobic digestion plant and gets the bulk of the subsidy income.

In return the farm then gets a minority share of the subsidies, earning it about £50,000 a year, and also buys the electricity it needs from the plant at a significantly reduced rate, saving it about £50,000 a year on its electricity bills.

In addition the processed manure leftover from the anaerobic digestion process is better quality than the original slurry, enabling the farm to halve its fertiliser costs, saving about another £50,000, Mr Metcalfe said.

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