Super dairies should be given the opportunity to see if they can help the farming industry lower its carbon footprint, the NFU has said.
Speaking at the Labour conference in Manchester on Monday (27 September), NFU president Peter Kendall said he did not expect small family farms to be replaced entirely with large-scale units.
But he said operations such as the proposed 8100-cow unit at Nocton in Lincolnshire should not be dismissed before being given the opportunity to see what benefits they could offer to food production.
“I don’t think mega farms will be marching across the UK,” he told delegates at an NFU fringe event.
“There are some interesting things about low-carbon production in the Nocton plans which I think means we should look at it and give it a try.
“We can then hold [the milk] up to consumers and ask if this is what they want – do they want supermarkets driving cheaper and cheaper prices?”
Mr Kendall said he was interested to see what efficiencies a dairy such as Nocton could deliver, but he also wanted to see what integrated farming systems could do to drive down agriculture’s carbon footprint.
Former DEFRA secretary Hilary Benn also said he wanted to see super dairies’ environmental credentials before dismissing large-scale farming practices.
“There are issues of animal welfare and any proposal has to be judged against these situations,” he said.
“I don’t see this really catching on, but I agree there’s an interesting point about carbon.
“We don’t always get the results we expect, so potentially this could be a way of [prodicing food] that has a low carbon footprint.
“Farming will have to contribute to reducing carbon so we have got to find a way to do that.”