Arla, a dairy co-op, is taking significant strides towards environmental sustainability by initiating regenerative dairy farming practices on six pilot farms in the UK. With the aim of promoting a more eco-friendly dairy sector, Arla intends to gather data-driven evidence of the impact these practices have on nature and climate.
Additionally, 114 organic farmers who supply Arla will actively participate in measuring their soil carbon content and adopting practices that foster biodiversity. These tangible, farmer-led measures will help gain valuable insights into improving soil biology, carbon capture, and other essential aspects of sustainable dairy farming.
The pilot farmers in the UK will implement various regenerative methods, generating valuable knowledge on their applicability to different dairy farming systems and their effects on climate and nature. Furthermore, starting this year, organic farmers will annually self-assess and register their farm’s biodiversity activities to compile essential data.
To establish a baseline for soil carbon, organic farmers will collect soil samples, which will be analyzed by a third-party laboratory.
Moreover, they will ensure the implementation of several soil health and biodiversity measures on their farms, gaining access to a comprehensive lever catalogue with information on how to measure and manage improvements.
By 2022, organic farmers will also self-assess additional soil health indicators, including soil smell, spading ease, and earthworm counts. Arla’s head of agri commercial support, Joanna Lawrence, emphasized the importance of gaining data-driven proof points for the effectiveness of regenerative farming methods on dairy farms. While carbon emissions reduction remains a priority, understanding the positive impact of farmers as land stewards is yet to be scientifically proven, and Arla aims to bridge this knowledge gap.
Regenerative agriculture has gained traction as a response to climate change and biodiversity loss, drawing attention from producers, retailers, researchers, and consumers alike. While there is consensus on the significance of soil health and biodiversity in regenerative farming, a universally agreed definition of the approach is still lacking.
Moreover, there are limited scientific examples of regenerative methods being implemented on dairy livestock farms in the UK and Europe, leaving farmers in need of guidance. Arla, recognizing the importance of filling this data gap, is leveraging the experience and knowledge of its farmer suppliers to spearhead this cooperative initiative.
Janne Hansson, a member of Arla’s board of directors, expressed enthusiasm for exploring regenerative farming methods, which have been embraced by several farmers. Encouraged by their passion, Arla has taken a broader approach, collaborating with organic farmers and a group of pilot farmers to promote sustainable practices across the dairy sector.
In summary, Arla’s commitment to regenerative dairy farming practices is poised to make a significant impact on the industry’s environmental footprint. By supporting these initiatives with data-driven evidence and farmer-led approaches, Arla aims to pave the way for a more sustainable and resilient dairy sector.