Nocton Dairies: Farmers plan to press ahead with 8,000-cow dairy

THE directors of Nocton Dairies have boldly stated their intention to press ahead with an 8,000-cow dairy in Lincolnshire, despite unveiling substantially reduced plans.

The two farmers behind the controversial project, Peter Willes and David Barnes, submitted a planning application for a 3,770-cow unit near the villages of Nocton and Dunston to North Kesteven District Council today (Thursday, November 18).

Mr Willes said the numbers had been ‘slashed’ from the original plan for 8,100 cows in response to local planning concerns, particularly over the spreading of digestate, and wider public unease over the welfare implications of such a large unit. But he made it clear the ultimate aim remained the same.

“We see this as a starting point. While we are backing down on the 8,000 cows we will aim to go there in future,” he said.

The directors believe the decision on the application could be made by February 2011. If successful, they expect to be in a position to milk the first cows by the end of next year.

The decision on whether to expand further, which will require a brand new planning application, would then be made once they had gauged the success of the initial £34 million unit, commercially and in terms of the wider issues surrounding it.

“We are confident that this system can work very well. If it does, we will consider future expansion,” Mr Willes, a Devon farmer, said.

Various other changes have been made to improve the application’s chances of success and the project’s public image, including the provision of outside access for cows and measures to address local concerns over water pollution, smell and traffic.

Speaking to journalists on Wednesday, Mr Willes made a passionate case for the plans, in the face of the massive public backlash thrown up by the original proposal.

He emphasised its long term ‘sustainability’ in terms of its contribution to UK food security and reversing the decline in UK milk production, its animal welfare credentials, the boost it will give to the local economy and its ‘huge’ environmental benefits, including a carbon footprint way below average UK and EU levels.

However, there no signs of any let up in the campaigning against the project by animal welfare environmental organisations.

The Soil Association released a report on Wednesday that it it said showed new scientific evidence from the US suggesting ‘the so-called super dairy model is not so super – with far worse environmental and animal welfare impact than organic systems’.

Viva!, which campaigns for a vegetarian lifestyle, described the reduced numbers as a ‘victory of sorts’ but said it would continue to oppose the  project because of the link between intensive farming and ‘bad animal welfare’.

NFU chief dairy adviser Hayley Campbell-Gibbons described the plan as an ‘imaginative and positive step in an industry that has been massively underinvested for over a decade’. She said it would be a ‘test-case’ for the British dairy sector.

Readers' comments (11)

  • An important read for all farmers.

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  • I hope it does not get the go ahed
    It will be the atom bomb sitting under the dairy indusry of Britain and Wales in particular.The go ahead will blow the rest into oblivion in less than a decade.It will be the first of manyThe 500 cow dairy herd will no longer be viable against this kind of ruthless gready and very selfish buissiness .They are so plausable in their arguments ..Dont be fooled.Dairy farmers of Britain stand and speak up up NOW for your industry or regrett at leisure.Why are you so quiet (or lethargic) about you own countyside and industry as a wholw.

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  • good luck nocton, hope it goes your way!!, with regard to Alice Jones response, its not that long ago that a 500 cow herd was a threat to the family farm, and i havent seen any implications from that, infact animal welare has probably improved on the 500 cow unit as there is dedicated staff to address the cows issues, where as the family farm labour is so thinly spread that certain tasks dont get addressed.

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  • Don't forget that Mr Wiles has a conviction for possessing unauthorised animal drugs. Drugs to keep them producing are just one thing these wretched beasts will be subjected to in order to keep them if this plan gets the go ahead.

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  • david pigg; you are obviously very short sighted. . I haven't spoken to one farmer yet who thinks these plans are either moral or acceptable; inevitable maybe. . But that's only because they believe that money will talk and consumers ultimately think only of themselves.
    Of course many just remain anonymous. . It's clear to see why.

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  • Why the uproar, if the man wants to spend millions of pounds in this country good luck to him, its simple scales of economy at work here, it happens in every industry so get on with it.

    Obviously there is money to be made in milk production!

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  • Bugger the animals eh Anonymous?!!! . . Why don't you leave your name?!! . . Too ashamed are you??!!!!

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  • Charles Henry
    i milk 95 and i think it is a great idea. I zero graze and wish I could afford the type of facilities they have planned for my cows

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  • Charles -A freind of mine runs a knacker service to collect dead livestock maybe you should come and have a look at the dairy cattle he picks up, some have been so overbred that there back legs twist, ankles break and suffer from little vetinary care as it is too expensive, so the dairy industry at the moment has major animal welfare issues.

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  • Going for 8000?
    What a load of rubbish. If you look at the plans on the Nocton Dairy website you will see that the cow numbers are limited by the availability of land available for slurry spreading and not, as the applicants would have you believe, by their concern for the locals.
    And why is the land limited? Because a number of the farmers in the area have seen and heard enough and have wisely withdrawn their land from the application.

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