New sustainability pledges have been launched by First Milk including one which asks farmers to provide cows access to pasture for a minimum of 6 hours per day for 120 days.
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The head of a heifer, with yellow identification tags in their ears, what standing behind the stone wall. Dairy farm in Podlasie, Poland.

The First4Milk scheme has been launched today (13 March) as a new way for the British dairy co-op to show off its environmental credentials.

The initiative sees the business asking its members to commit to improvements within three main areas – ‘people, animals and the earth’.

The key elements of the pledge include farmer members guaranteeing that no healthy animal, including calves, will be euthanised on farm.

Farmers will also share antibiotic use data, enhance biodiversity and soil health on farm and help promote a positive image of dairy.

Members will provide cows with access to pasture for a minimum of 6 hours per day for 120 days during the grazing season.

Shelagh Hancock, the dairy co-op’s chief executive, admitted they are challenging objectives, but the industry must do more in terms of sustainability.

“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,” she said.

“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.”

First Milk farmers members are being asked to sign up to the First4Milk Pledge by 30 June 2020.

Compliance with the commitments will be monitored through annual Farm Business Reviews and farm assurance audits, as well as through online data collection via the First4Milk platform including the member app.

What pledges are farmers being asked to take?

Animal Welfare

• Ensure cows have access to pasture for a minimum of 120 days per year for at least 6 hours per day during periods when the weather and ground conditions are suitable

• Implement animal health and welfare plans in conjunction with vets

• Record, monitor and share total use of antibiotics with First Milk

• Guarantee no healthy animal, including calves, shall be euthanised on farm


• Implement a soil and nutrient management plan to demonstrate responsible use of fertilisers and manures

• Maintain levels of soil organic matter to improve soil health and carbon storage

• Take measures on farm to enhance and promote biodiversity


• Ensure all individuals are appropriately trained to carry out their duties

• Help promote a positive image of dairy and support consumer and community engagement

• Ensure the working environment on farm is safe

The delay in details being issued on the proposed dairy reduction scheme is “playing with the futures” of farm families, according to the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers’ Association (ICMSA).

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