First Milk has urged its farmers to sign its voluntary First4Milk pledge in a bid to proactively promote sustainable dairy farming.
The new initiative is hoped to build on the success of the First4Milk responsible sourcing programme launched last year, and will ask the co-operative’s 800 farming members to commit to improvements in three key areas - people, animal welfare and the earth.
It follows a suite of other processor schemes launched in recent years, such as Arla 360, to help promote a positive image of Britain’s dairy industry as well as support consumer and community engagement, with the public increasingly interested in animal welfare, access to pasture and antibiotic use.
Key features of the First4Milk pledge will include providing cows with access to pasture for a minimum of six hours per day for 120 days during the grazing season, implementation of a soil and nutrient management plan and ensuring no healthy animals, including calves, are euthanised on farm.
Shelagh Hancock, First Milk chief executive, said: “We are proud of the leading standards on First Milk members’ farms and know members exceed many of the national targets and outcomes in these areas.
“But with livestock-based food production continuing to be under the spotlight, we need to demonstrate we are proactively addressing these areas of public concern in order to prosper long-term.”
While the pledge is voluntary and there is no premium associated with participation, members who have not signed up by June, 30 2020 will not receive the co-operator rebate from July 1 (currently £12.50/month).
Compliance with the pledge commitments will be monitored through annual farm business reviews and farm assurance audits as well as via the First4Milk online platform.