Pasture-based farmer's initiative wants to hear about your practices

Pasture-based farmer's initiative wants to hear about your practices

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Somerset dairy farmer Neil Darwent has established a new farmer-led initiative to reclaim the value of milk for UK dairy farmers. Through 'Free Range Dairy', he is seeking to unite thousands of milk producers who still operate a pasture-based system and engage directly with consumers and politicians, begining with a survey of their farming practices.  

Pasture-based dairy farming has helped to make UK farmers some of the most efficient milk producers in Europe.  However, Neil believes that pressures in the dairy supply chain threaten to drive many farmers away from simple production systems and further distance them from consumers. The first objective for Free Range Dairy is to bring together like-minded farmers and facilitate the transfer of knowledge, to improve profitability in pasture-based herds.

Neil explains, “Free Range Dairy is not just about launching a brand in pursuit of a premium for milk. In times of austerity it is essential that we secure the loyalty of consumers, by distinguishing our milk from that sourced from cheaper, inferior sources. I want to build value in our milk and farms by establishing recognition for the benefits of pasture-based dairy farming for farmers, cows and consumers. Over the next few weeks a Free Range Dairy survey will be distributed through farming publications to get a picture of how farmers see the future of their businesses and their relationship with consumers. I want to develop this initiative based on feedback from as many farmers as possible.”

The survey will be the first stage of the development of Free Range Dairy. A series of regional farmer meetings are planned for early 2012, to define the principles upon which it will be founded. “It’s essential we establish clear parameters for free range milk production that have real integrity and value. However, I do not want to exclude any producers who can demonstrate a clear commitment to grazing their cows, at this stage. Free Range Dairy is not about creating a niche market for a few producers, it’s about instilling value in the way that most of us still farm today” adds Neil.

To find out more about Free Range Dairy and to complete the survey online please visit www.freerangedairy.org

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