ONE of the major players in Cumbria’s dairy industry has announced an ambitious net zero 2040 pledge.

First Milk, owners of the Lake District Creamery at Aspatria, has announced a range of developments to its First4Milk sustainability plan, which see it make some bold changes as part of its ambition to be a leader in dairy sustainability.

The key changes being announced include a commitment to net zero carbon emissions by 2040 at the latest, with a target to reduce carbon footprint at farm level by 50 per cent by 2030 and achieve net zero in milk transport and processing by 2035; a target to sequester 100,000 tonnes of CO2 per annum on members’ farms by 2025; a target to increase milk from forage by 10 per cent by 2025 to reduce members’ reliance on imported feeds; the aim for all transport and processing activity to be using renewable fuel sources by 2030 and the intention to reduce antibiotic use by a further 10 per cent by 2025.

These will be achieved by continuing to drive carbon efficiency throughout its logistics and manufacturing operations, as well as a major focus on working with its members on the adoption of regenerative agricultural practices to enhance and quantify soil carbon sequestration.

Shelagh Hancock, chief executive, said: “In 2019 we launched our First4Milk programme, which set out a range of commitments to ensure we protect and enhance the global environment we all share.

“But we know we need to go further, faster. Dairy farming and food manufacturing are seen as carbon-intensive activities and we know that this is coming under increasing scrutiny across the food chain, with particular focus on upstream ‘Scope 3’ emissions.”

Robert Craig, Eden Valley dairy farmer, First Milk farmer director and vice-chairman, added: “We’re well aware that the majority of our members are practicing regenerative farming principles and always have done.

"It’s essential as dairy farmers that we take control of the narrative and tell our own story to our consumers with integrity.

"Through highlighting the very best practice from our membership, we strongly believe we can drive further change and have a unique leadership position in the industry, which will enable us to forge even stronger relationships with our partners and future customers.”