Plans for the UK’s first mega dairy were withdrawn in February 2011. If a proposal such as Nocton Dairies was ever built it could change the face of our farming and our countryside forever.
What Nocton locals could expect
22 acres of sheds stretching the length of seven football pitches and housing 8,100 cows (although the farm planned to start with just under 4,000 cows and build up to full quota); 40 trucks containing 420,000 pints of milk rolling up and down B roads every day; enough manure annually to fill Wembley Stadium, spread on surrounding fields risking contamination to rivers and streams. This is what the 650 inhabitants of the sleepy village of Nocton, which currently boasts a post office, a primary school and a village hall, would experience if a mega-dairy was built in their village.
“Cows do not belong in fields,” say the Nocton Dairies developers
This is according to Peter Willes, one of the developers behind the proposal, who currently farms 2,000 cows in Devon and Lancashire. Nocton Dairies claimed that on-hand vets and trained staff would be able to respond to any of the health issues that were likely to be exacerbated in an intensive indoor system. But with 600 cows per worker, their care would inevitably have been more function-based or “robotic” than based on traditional stockmanship principles where each individual cow is known to the stockman.
Closing down Britain’s dairy business
If a mega-dairy like this is ever allowed to go ahead, it will open the floodgates to other such proposals. It will be only a matter of time before Britain’s already struggling small dairy farms simply disappear.
Environmentally-friendly milk or greenwashing?
Nocton Dairies made much of their manure disposal system, which would have created enough electricity to power 2,000 homes. In reality the anaerobic digester would only have dealt with 10 to 20 per cent of the green house gas emissions – doing nothing for the emissions from feed production, silage effluent or enteric fermentation – the belching of 8,100 cows. Nor would it eliminate all pathogens and veterinary medicine residues which could potentially cause a public health risk.