Dairy co-op First Milk launches scheme to protect Lake District watercourses

Mitigation and monitoring measures will be taken on farms supplying the co-op’s Wigton site

UK dairy co-op First Milk is launching an environmental offset scheme at its Lake District Creamery to enhance the protection of local watercourses.

The scheme will see around 25-30 First Milk farmer members voluntarily working with the co-operative to adjust their farming practices to reduce nitrate, phosphate and sediment discharge. The co-op says it wants to completely offset any nutrient discharge from manufacturing at the Creamery site at Wigton.

Each participating farm will have a nutrient management benchmarking audit undertaken by ADAS, the agricultural and environmental consultancy. Having established this baseline, a range of tailored mitigation measures will be agreed with each farm, which will then be audited by ADAS to ensure ongoing compliance.

The co-op says it will also monitor the overall discharge load from wastewater treatment at the Creamery, so that evidence of additional mitigation at farm level can be compared with actual emissions to verify that an offset has been achieved.

The initiative is based on a project that has been running at First Milk’s Haverfordwest Creamery in Pembrokeshire for around five years. Involving 33 farms, this group has reported a 12% reduction in nitrates, a 21% reduction in phosphorus and a 12% reduction in sediment losses to local watercourses over the last 12 months, as well as more than offsetting factory discharges.

Related: NZ dairy Fonterra launches plan to improve waterways

First Milk says this makes cheese manufacturing more sustainable, whilst also delivering financial and agronomic benefits to the farmers involved.

Sustainability director Mark Brooking said:“We take our environmental responsibility very seriously. Whilst we obviously operate within environmental regulations anyway, the extension of this proven First4Milk project to our Lake District Creamery will help us to completely offset the environmental impact of cheese production on local water quality. At the same time, it will help our local farmer members improve nutrient use on farm whilst saving money on farm inputs.

“This is a great example of how co-operative working can deliver multiple benefits – improving the sustainability of dairy farming and cheese manufacturing in the area, whilst enhancing the local environment, securing future prosperity for our members.”

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