Arla's Regenerative Farming Pilot Farm Network
Explore regenerative dairy farming and its impact across a range of systems and locations through training and monitoring.
In a 4-year pilot programme, 24 Arla farmers will scientifically explore regenerative farming methods together with FAI Farms. In each of Arla’s four biggest owner countries the UK, Sweden, Germany and Denmark, there is a mix of organic, conventionally grazed and conventional full housed pilot farms. We aim to gain a better understanding of the benefits of regenerative agriculture in different regions and in different farming systems and how it can help maximise dairy farming’s positive impact on the environment. This can then be used to measure and communicate progress towards regenerative agriculture at a larger scale.
The project will measure the outcomes from Regenerative farming practices across a range of indicators including biodiversity, carbon, soil health, productivity and people, animal welfare and behaviour change.
The importance of the mindset shift...
Regenerative agriculture is an approach that goes beyond simply adopting a management technique. Instead, through training, this approach embeds a systems thinking methodology that encourages a shift in how we understand and interact with the natural world in a way that embraces the complexity of ecosystems and the needs of people living and working within them.
Combining training, individual coaching sessions, and the pilot farmer network with support from industry experts will enable each pilot farmer to embark on this mindset shift at their own pace whilst being fully supported.
Potential benefits of Regenerative Dairy
As custodians of farmlands, dairy farmers can have a tangible impact on biodiversity. These are some of the actions farmers can take to gradually encourage diversity of grasses on pasture:
- Let sections of the land grow naturally
- Protect and improve small landscape elements
- Allow flower-rich pollinator habitats to grow
- Plant hedgerows and let them flower
- Allow woodlands and wetlands
- Managing grazing to maximise photosynthesis, soil biology & water capture in addition to preventing overgrazing
- Reduce the use of pesticides
Improving soil health
These are some of the actions dairy farmers can take to gradually regenerate soil health:
- Rotate crop types between different fields
- Use cover crops, so the ground isn’t bare, when the land isn’t being used
- Do not let cows graze the same area for too long
- Reduce tillage to protect top soil
- Avoid compressing wet soil with heavy vehicles
Increasing carbon sequestration
Dairy farmers often have a lot of grasslands that can absorb and store carbon from the atmosphere. This is called carbon sequestration and can ultimately reduce the farmers’ carbon footprint per kilo of milk. Carbon is an important indicator for soil health, because it is the main component of soil organic matter – which plays an essential role in storing nutrients and water, acts as a food source for vital soil organisms and gives soil its structure.
Each pilot farm will test their soils carbon level to understand how much carbon is stored in the ground and how the carbon content can be increased.