The scheme will see 25 to 30 local First Milk farmer members voluntarily working with the cooperative to adjust their farming practices to reduce nitrate, phosphate and sediment discharge. The aim is to completely offset any nutrient discharge from manufacturing at the creamery.
Each participating farm will have a nutrient management benchmarking audit undertaken by consultants from ADAS. Having established this baseline, a range of tailored mitigation measures will be agreed with each farm, which will then be audited by UK environmental consultancy ADAS to ensure ongoing compliance.
At the same time, the overall discharge load from wastewater treatment at the creamery will be monitored, and then evidence of additional mitigation at farm level can be compared with actual emissions to verify an offset has been achieved.
The new initiative is based on a project that has been running at First Milk’s Haverfordwest Creamery for around five years. Involving 33 farms, this group has achieved 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.
First Milk said this makes cheese manufacturing more sustainable, and delivers financial and agronomic benefits to the farmers involved.
Mark Brooking, sustainability director, 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 cooperative 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.”