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Nocton 'super-dairy' plans are just the start, say farmers

Tom Levitt

18th November, 2010

Controversial dairy farm in Lincolnshire will now have fewer than 4,000 cows but farmers behind proposal say they plan to scale up soon, while another mega-dairy unit is proposed in Cambridgeshire

A revised application to build the UK's biggest dairy farm in Nocton, Lincolnshire, may be just the start in terms of more large-scale dairy farms being set up in the country.

An initial application to create a 8,100-cow unit was withdrawn earlier this year after concerns about its environmental impact, in particular how the facility planned to dispose of 180,000 tonnes or more of slurry a year.

The farmers have now submitted a revised application for a 3,770-cow unit, but have said they still plan to scale up to the original 8,100 cows within 18 months. If approved, the current farm is expected to be up and running by the end of 2011.

'We aim to demonstrate that the farm, once operational, will cause little local impact and work well from an environmental and welfare perspective,' said David Barnes, one of the two farmers behind the proposal. 'The advantage is that we’ve got a brand-new site and we can design all this in from the start, rather than having to adapt an older farm to deal with modern requirements.'

The new application comes as another farmer, David Alvis, was reported to be looking to set up a 2,000-3,000 cow unit in Cambridgeshire in the next year. Alvis recently spoke to the Ecologist about his strong support for the Nocton proposal and the potential for 'super-sized' dairy farming in the UK.

Speaking at a briefing this week, the second farmer behind the Nocton proposal, Peter Willes, said the east of England was ripe for more large-scale dairy units, with the large markets of London and the South East not served by any local milk processors at present.

However, as well as concerns about the environmental footprint of 2,000-cow plus dairy units, other farmers have expressed fears that it could 'polarise' farming in the UK and destroy smaller family dairy farms.

'You could call it progress but it is not something I'd personally like to see,' said Farmers Union of Wales (FUW) vice-president Eifion Huws. 'For the smaller family farm it is going to be bad; they are squeezing them out.'

The full planning application documents for the Nocton farm proposal can be found at: www.noctondairies.co.uk

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