First Milk has announced the launch of a new environmental offset scheme at its Lake District Creamery to enhance the protection of local watercourses.
The scheme will see around 30 local farmers voluntarily work with the co-operative to adjust their practices to reduce nitrate, phosphate and sediment discharge.
The aim is to completely offset any nutrient discharge from manufacturing at the creamery site.
Each participating farm will have a nutrient management benchmarking audit undertaken by consultants from ADAS.
A range of tailored mitigation measures will be agreed with each farm, which will then be audited by 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 that an offset has been achieved.
Mark Brooking, sustainability director at First Milk, said the initiative would help farmers improve nutrient use whilst saving money on farm inputs.
"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.
“This is a great example of how co-operative working can deliver multiple benefits - improving the sustainability of dairy farming in the area, whilst enhancing the local environment.”
The new initiative is based on a project that has been running at the dairy co-operative's Haverfordwest Creamery for around five years.
Involving 33 farms, they have achieved a 12% fall in nitrates, 21% fall in phosphorus and 12% in sediment losses to watercourses over the last 12 months, as well as more than offsetting factory discharges.