Free Range Dairy initiative aims to gain national foothold

HUNDREDS of farmers across the country have shown an interest in an initiative to promote the value of grazing cows, according to the farmer behind the project.

Somerset dairy farmer Neil Darwent has spent much of the past 18 months drumming up support for his Free Range Dairy initiative, which he is now to turn into a formal body, possibly in the form of a producer organisation (PO).

At the Parliamentary agroecology event, Mr Darwent said: “About 75 farmers have taken our pasture pledge, committing them to grazing their cows. Another 400 farmers have expressed an interest so it is an ongoing process of signing up farmers and explaining what we are about.

“We are now in the process of looking at how we come together as a formal organisation and a PO would be a really good thing to look at.”

Mr Darwent’s ultimate aim is to represent dairy farmers across the UK who graze their cows for 180 days (160 days in Scotland) and establish a brand for ‘free-range milk’.

“I am looking to bring regional producers together to market their milk through local processors or even bigger national schemes, acting as a certification body and putting farmers in touch with processors who want to source free range dairy products.

“It is not about creating a unique market for a handful of people. It is trying to make people think when they go and buy their milk what kind of life the cow has had, what kind of return is going to the farmer and what it is doing to the countryside.

“There is a lot of talk about farmers needing to get bigger or get out. I am trying to counter some of this pressure by making people realise there is real value in grazing cows. It is about trying to instill values.

“The message I am trying to get across is there is real value in dairy herds today. We haven’t got many left, but those which are following a more traditional system of seasonal grazing their cows aren’t yesterday’s herds, they are actually tomorrow’s men.”

Readers' comments (11)

  • Well done on a good initiative.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Till it rains

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • I really hope Neil Darwent succeeds. Cows belong in fields and farmers really should be making the most of grass, after all this system of farming is better for the cows, better for us and better for the planet.
    I hope the regional producers can benefit by offering a recognised local milk, and I hope the buying public will get behind their farmers.
    If Free Range Dairy can instill the value back into milk and allow farmers to make the most of their farms without having to get bigger or get out then so much the better.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Well done Neil Darwent - more power to his elbow.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • All the best for the campaign which I fully support with, words and wallet.
    Hildegard

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Isn't that the whole idea of spring calving and auturm calving to make the most of grass.if dairies invested in these systems, more farmers would be doing it.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Of course cows, sheep, goats etc should spend their whole lives outdoors on grass, but have we got enough land?

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • As a consumer I find it re-assuring that there are committed pasture-based dairy farmers out there putting their faith in grass. In my opinion these farmers are the future and the acceptable face of dairy farming in this country.
    Grass grazing cows have provided us with milk and dairy products for many years, why change it, and why try to turn dairy farming into a factory-like operation. The prospect of milk production becoming an industrial process rather than dairy farming as we know it just doesn’t seem right.
    With all the food scandals and scares of late I’m sure more and more consumers will buy into milk and dairy products being produced by responsible dairy farmers that care for their cows by allowing them to graze pasture for as many days as possible, just as it should be.
    Quite simply, I believe Free Range Dairy is a good news story.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Let's hope that this helps to stop the ogre of factory dairies like the one proposed in Welshpool. Cattle deserve their freedom, they suffer enough. I hope this initiative goes one stage further and stops taking the calves away from their mothers. Not so bad if we share their milk, but to deprive calves of their mother's milk and their mother's company is wrong.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Well I went vegetarian after seeing a report on country file about cows spending al there time in sheds on mattresses which would be covered in excrement in hours

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

View results 10 per page | 20 per page

Have your say

Mandatory
Mandatory
Mandatory
Mandatory
Register your email address for Farmers Guardian e-bulletins

Get the latest from Farmers Guardian delivered straight to your inbox. Click here to sign-up today

Already receiving bulletins? Sign-in to edit your preferences