At Co-op we have a close, dedicated relationship with just under 200 dairy farmers, who form the Co-op Dairy Farming Group.
Each farmer within the Group maintains strict standards, including working alongside the environment, and they hold regular meetings to share ideas and best practice. In return their hard work, farmers receive a premium price for their milk. The Group was set up in 2011 to support British dairy farmers and to cement relationships with producers, who give us both high-quality milk and a transparent supply chain.
Within the Group, there are 15 smaller producer groups across England, Scotland and Wales. With this structure in place, we can ensure that all the farmers have a voice. Each producer group meets three times a year, taking it in turns to host. During the meetings farmers listen to expert speakers, and have the chance to share ideas and best practice in efficiency, sustainability and animal welfare.
Why should I buy milk from Co-op?
Where is your milk sourced?
Our fresh milk is 100% British and sourced from a dedicated group of more than 200 dairy farmers across England, Scotland and Wales. These farmers make up the Co-op Dairy Farming Group. All of our own-brand liquid milk, yogurts, block butter and Cheddar cheese are 100% sourced from British milk.
How do you know that the dairy cows are well cared for?
All our dairy farmers are accredited to a national farm assurance scheme, such as Red Tractor, which ensures good standards of animal welfare. These schemes cover aspects such as the housing of animals and stocking densities, feed and water, health and veterinary controls, breeding, traceability and transportation.
These farms also work with an independent third party to measure their performance and to drive long-term improvement. The Co-op’s dedicated Agriculture team visit these farms when possible throughout the year, too.
Find out more about The Co-op’s commitments to animal welfare.
How do farmers benefit from being part of Co-op Dairy Group?
As part of Co-op Dairy Farming Group, our farmers are guaranteed a premium price for every litre of milk they produce. They also have the opportunity to meet three times a year with their fellow Group members to listen to expert speakers, and to share knowledge and best practice in efficiency, sustainability and animal welfare.
We are proud to support our dairy farmers. As well as providing these opportunities and paying a price premium, we help to monitor their farms’ environmental impact, energy and water efficiency, we have disease and antibiotics monitoring programmes in place and we support the cost of two vet visits to each farm per year.
How does working with farmers directly benefit me?
While the Co-op Dairy Farming Group aims to encourage best practice among farmers and to help give them profitable returns, it also ensures that we can provide you, our customers, with high-quality milk. Creating long-term relationships with farmers means we can give you complete transparency in our milk supply chain too, which is built on honesty, fairness and trust. Ultimately, we are giving you the opportunity to join us on our journey to continually invest and support British farming.
How do you ensure that dairy farmers are paid a fair price for their milk?
To make sure our farmers are paid fairly for their milk, we work closely with our dairy supply chain to review pricing on a regular basis. We use what’s known as a ‘basket price’ method, which takes into account factors such as cost of production to offer a fair and representative view of the market.
Meet the Dairy Farmer: Colin Mair
Dumfries-based dairy farmer Colin Mair was the first to win our prestigious award Outstanding Farmer of the Year, which was presented to him at the 2014 Co-operative Retail Trading Group Awards.
Colin, who has just under 200 milking cows and 130 heifers on his 330-acre farm, has been a member of Co-op Dairy Group since its launch in 2011. Colin impressed judges with his work ethos of ‘Keep it simple and practical’, while also paying great attention to detail and planning for the future.
Farming with his wife, Lorraine, and children, Erin and Robbie, Colin has worked hard to improve the overall health of his herd and their welfare, as well as investing in the conservation of energy and water. By setting clear targets, his herd has increased by 90% since 2011, and he’s invested in a lot of new technology, which, along with improving herd health, has allowed him to start milking the cows three times a day.
The farm is now highly efficient, using a natural spring for water, solar panels to generate electricity and a heat recovery system. The family hosts six primary school farm visits each year as part of their involvement with the Royal Highland Education Trust.
‘I find Co-op Dairy Group meetings extremely worthwhile. It’s not just about what you learn from the meetings, it’s also about talking to other farmers and sharing our knowledge and challenges. I am always picking up something from them!’ says Colin.