Dairy farmers supplying milk to Arla will be required to take part in the company’s own farm assurance scheme from 2014 onwards.

The EU farmer-owned co-operative operates the Arla Gaarden farm certification scheme in Denmark and Sweden, with German farmers coming on board this autumn.

It now plans to roll out a UK version of the scheme to its farmer owner members, claiming it will require less administration than the Red Tractor scheme, although the company stresses it is not its intention to operate a replacement to the Red Tractor.

“We think it’s our responsibility as a farmer-owned business to take responsibility for the on-farm health and welfare standards,” said the company’s head of milk and member services in the UK, Ash Amirahmadi.

“The ideal is to move Red Tractor forward but every time they try to move the agenda on, they get absolutely lambasted. We believe Arla Gaarden in the UK can do that job.”

The company purchases 26% of British milk, accounting for approximately 3.2bn litres, all of which is Red Tractor farm assured, said Mr Amirahmadi.

“We believe Arla needs to provide milk to the retailers that meets their needs rather than having five to six different standards,” he said.

The scheme covers the whole supply chain from farm to consumer, and on-farm covers areas such as feedstuffs and water, animal welfare, environmental considerations, contingency planning, and milk collection and composition.

In Denmark, farmers are audited once every two to three years with any additional problems flagged up by milk tanker drivers – given training once a year on the subject – and data collected from the farm, such as somatic cell count.

A UK scheme is being devised by farmer members, while the company is in discussion with key customers to find out what their requirements are, said Mr Amirahmadi. The scheme will be launched in 2014.

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