Super dairy plans branded an ‘environmental disaster’

Plans to build an 8100-cow “super dairy” in Lincolnshire are meeting stiff opposition from animal rights groups who have branded the proposals an environmental disaster.

Proposed by Nocton Dairies, a consortium of milk producers, the 22-acre development would be the UK’s biggest dairy and home to a 24-hour milking operation.

It would produce more than 420,000 litres of milk every day while an on-site anerobic digestion plant would convert slurry to enough energy to power 2000 homes.

Nocton Dairies said the £40m development, which would house cattle in cubicles, would be a “flagship for the industry” and set new standards in animal welfare,

But North Kesteven district council has received dozens of objections to the dairy, at Nocton Heath.

Protestors claim the proposal condemns cattle to lives in dark sheds and “battery conditions”.

Vegetarian pressure group Viva said the development was factory farming which destroyed the pastoral image the dairy industry liked to portray.

“Can dairy farming in the UK sink any lower?” asked Justin Kerswell, Viva campaigns manager.

“We have already imprisoned chickens, ducks and turkeys in massive concrete sheds.

“Can we really be so stupid and reckless that we are forcing dairy cows to join the factory-farmed millions?”

But Nocton Dairies said the dairy had been designed to a level beyond the highest environmental and welfare standards ever seen in the UK.

While in milk the cows would be housed in open-sided sheds and have access to grazing when dry, it added.

Robert Howard, who farms in Nocton and is involved with the proposed dairy, said: “Nothing this ambitious has been attempted in Western Europe – let alone this part of Lincolnshire.

“It provides all of the neighbouring farms with an opportunity to work together and represents a massive investment into the local economy.”

North Kesteven council said complaints on animal welfare grounds were not a valid reason for refusing the application.

While Nocton Dairies claims the site is away from residential properties and will not increase traffic through local villages, residents have also raised concerns about extra traffic and the impact on the local environment.

A consultation on the dairy is open until Wednesday (3 March).

The proposal:

• 22-acre site, including 21,500 acres to grow feed and recycle manure, making it the country’s biggest dairy.

• 80 staff, including a full-time vet.

• Visitor centre and training facilities.

• Cows bedded on deep sand for “unparallelled levels of hygience and comfort”.

• Forage produced by a co-operative of local farmers. The cows’ diet designed to reduce methane emissions and maximise the use feed, supplemented with by-products from industries such as the Newark sugar beet factory and the proposed ethanol plant at Immingham.

• The dairy will run 24-hours, with cattle being milked three times a day.

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