With ongoing volatility in the global milk markets, increasing consumer misunderstanding of the sector, polarised levels of support for UK dairy farmers and a new post-Brexit Agriculture Bill the challenges for dairy farmers are mounting. Today, the farmer-owned cooperative Arla Foods is launching ‘Arla UK 360’, a new standard in UK dairy farming with an approach to benefit everyone.
The Arla UK 360 programme covers the six areas essential to building a profitable, responsible dairy farm business. It incorporates best practice in today’s dairy farming across animal health and welfare, people development, environment and natural resources, community engagement and economic resilience and reinvestment, and will then drive a vision for research and development areas that will lead the UK dairy agenda.
Graham Wilkinson, head of agriculture at Arla Foods UK and strategic lead for the Arla UK 360 programme comments: “This programme is a vision of how we help drive sustainable businesses for UK dairy farmers. It isn’t just about producing high quality dairy products. It continues the journey of our owners in driving a sustainable business, as stewards of the countryside and a critical part of UK food production. Crucial to its success is the support of retailers and foodservice businesses, as only then can the vision become a reality on farms across the UK.”
While owners of Arla Foods currently work with retailers across the UK in developing standards, and retailers have been at the forefront of supporting continuous development in the industry for more than a decade, the new approach of Arla UK 360 will unify this support so that more consistent industry-wide change can be achieved. Wilkinson explains: “Arla farmer owners have a long-standing history of receiving support from UK retailers, however, with a new Agriculture Bill on the horizon, our owners want to drive sustainable change. As a farmer-owned cooperative we have to act in the best interest of all our farmers owners. That means making industry support and benefits work for the greater good of all our owners.”
In aligning behind one leading standard in farming, Arla Foods UK believes this will enable flexibility for farmers and individual retailers to partner on solving some of the biggest challenges for farming. The trial and exploration of these challenges will serve to benefit all Arla farmers and the wider dairy industry at large.
Aldi is the first UK grocery retailer to sign up to the programme and its support will provide a premium to a selected group of Arla’s owners to deliver the standards on farm. The retailer will work with its group of British Arla farmer owners through the Aldi Dairy Farm Partnership to share knowledge through the supply chain and explore and tackle waste on farm, initially searching for ways to reuse or recycle on farm plastic through the supply chain.
Fritz Walleczek, managing director of Corporate Responsibility at Aldi UK, said: “We have an excellent working relationship with Arla and are pleased to support this scheme through our new Aldi Dairy Farm Partnership. We will be working with our dedicated Arla farmers to continue to enhance animal welfare and farm management through the 360 programme. This builds on our longstanding commitment to support British farmers and suppliers.”
The programme has been developed following a six-month trial with 79 Arla farmer owners. Additional areas that the programme will seek to address with the support of retailers and foodservice companies include breeding calves with purpose, cow behavioural studies, waste reduction and reuse along with data driven leadership.
Johnny Burridge, an Arla farmer owner who took part in the Arla 360 trial, comments, “Participating in the Arla UK 360 trial has been eye opening. You won’t meet a farmer who isn’t driving forward standards on their farm in at least one area and, of course, Arla already has its Arlagården programme, which has really helped drive consistency of standards. But to bring these areas all together has really made me challenge how I think about my farming practice. The current retailer support is great if you are one of the farmers fortunate to be on a retailer aligned programme, but to bring farmers together in one programme and in doing so address some of the more challenging areas farmers face could be game changing for everyone.”