A pilot scheme that tested the viability of dairy farmers allowing their cattle to go free range has exceeded expectations. The dairy company, Lancashire Farm Dairies, are the first in the UK to launch a free-range yoghurt and have released the results of their innovative study which they began back in 2017.
Allowing cows to roam free
After careful consideration of the animals’ welfare and all the practicalities, such as the area’s weather conditions, the Rochdale-based dairy company’s pilot programme saw them pay farmers a premium for supplying milk from cows who had been allowed to roam free for a minimum of 150 days of the year. This means that for these days, the cattle are allowed to roam freely between fields which will help improve their quality of life and, hopefully, produce even better milk.
Dairy farmers exceeded expectations
In the first year alone, 60% of the dairy company’s farmers signed up to the scheme and tested the feasibility of the programme in terms of infrastructure and climate conditions. Managing Director of Lancashire Farm Dairies said, ‘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.’
This inaugural year proved to be extremely successful as the farmers went above and beyond on their original 150 free range day target, allowing their cattle to frolic in the great outdoors for an average of 162 days. Mr Zouq went on to add, ‘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.’
Increased dairy sales
So successful was the scheme that the following year in 2018, the average number of free-range grazing days given to the cows increased further still to 174. When the free-range yogurts went on sale, the dairy reported their sales went up by one fifth, a good indicator that the public whole-heartedly supports this new free-range yogurt product.