United Dairy Farmers operates effectively as a co-operative organisation buying, processing and selling milk from just under 2,000 registered suppliers across Northern Ireland.
The international trade in dairy products has been affected by recent periods of improved prices, but more recently international prices have fallen. The group operates with very fine trading margins, usually close to 1% of turnover.
In the financial year to March 2009, overall turnover in United Dairy Farmers (UDF), including the subsidiary companies within the group, fell by 9%. This was in a period when the volume of milk delivered to UDF fell by some 5%, but the prices realised through sales and processing also fell.
The average price paid to farm milk suppliers, at 20.9 pence per litre, in 2008-9 fell by over 13%, although these prices were still well above the lower levels recorded in 2005-7.
UDF operates through a range of subsidiary companies with a range of dairy related products based in six different centres, two of which are in Scotland and Kendal, in the Lake District.
During 2008-9, through the group's own programme of research and development, 26 new products (with 45 variants) were launched, compared to 15 in the previous year. In addition, changes to other products created 13 rejuvenated products.
Employment in the group fell slightly, by 1%, to average 774 during the year.
The balance sheet value of shareholders funds fell sharply to £28.2m. This fall of just over £3m is explained by an assessment that the actuarial deficit on pension schemes increased by just over £7m.