Free range pilot program for dairy farmers exceeds expectations

The dairy company agreed a minimum of 150 days grazing with its farmer suppliers
The dairy company agreed a minimum of 150 days grazing with its farmer suppliers

A pilot program which tested the feasibility of dairy farmers to go free range for a major yoghurt company delivered 162 grazing days on average, exceeding the 150 days minimum.

The first dairy company to launch free range yoghurt in the UK, Lancashire Farm Dairies, has revealed the results of their pilot program.

The Rochdale-based company piloted the program in 2017 which laid out a commitment to use only free-range milk in every yoghurt pot.

After consideration of the welfare of the cows and weather conditions in the Lancashire area, the company agreed a minimum of 150 days grazing with its farmers, paying them a premium for delivering the grazing guarantee.

60% of farmers who supply the company signed up in the first year of the program, which tested the feasibility for them in terms of their infrastructure and the surrounding climatic conditions.

They delivered 162 days on average, exceeding the 150 days minimum expected.

Azhar Zouq, managing director of Lancashire Farm Dairies, said the company launched the grazing guarantee for the 'welfare of farmers and cows'.

“As we paid our farmers a premium to deliver the grazing guarantee, we wanted to understand whether the premium was justified and sustainable for them to produce milk at the new standard.

“Together we worked through segregation, in terms of haulage and collections ensuring milk is never mixed with non-free range milk, and we were pleased with the results.”

The pilot program also allowed farmers to receive a higher price for their milk.

Mr Zouq added: “We used our pilot year to gauge the farmer’s sentiment on the project and reviewed the impact seasonality and grazing has on milk quality to ensure we can continue to make great products.

“As a result, when we finally launched going free-range on pack in 2018, our producers achieved 174 days, yet again exceeding the 150 days grazing guarantee and the results from our pilot program.”

Lancashire Farm Dairies said the move has boosted sales with initial figures showing a rise of one fifth since the free range products hit shelves at the start of 2018.