By Meyrick Brown

West Wales dairy farmers were wooed by global dairy business Arla as it looks to expand its involvement in the Welsh milk industry.

At an open meeting at Godor Farm, Nantgaredig, director Graham Wilkinson explained that farmer-owned Arla was the fifth largest global dairy business operating in more than 100 countries, growing by 14 per cent year on year. The company presently takes in 120 million litres per year from 68 producers in Wales.

He said the Arla model was to develop a centre of excellence with fresh milk produced profitably and efficiently to supply a well functioning home market and hopefully, after Brexit, without prohibitive tariff barriers.

At the same time the group worked continuously to increase the already high standards for animal welfare on its farms. Arla’s farmer owners use animal welfare workshops as a forum in which they can share best practice to bring standards to even higher levels – in Sweden and the UK almost 300 workshops have already been conducted.

As part of an environmental strategy, Arla’s board of directors agreed a global strategy for sustainable dairy farming in 2014. It serves as a guiding star for the dairy cooperative and the farmer owners in their continuous work around climate, nature and animal welfare, taking positive steps towards even more sustainable dairy farming.

New research released by Arla Fibre reveals that the nation’s diets are stuck in a rut. Worryingly, a poll of 2,000 adults revealed that almost half believe that we don’t get the nutrition we need from food as a result of our monotonous meal times, with three-quarters wishing it was easier to get the nutrition we need from our existing diets.

Despite wishing this, almost nine in ten Brits don’t know how much of each food group they should be eating each day, with vitamins (25 per cent) and iron (17 per cent) believed to be the food groups that were lacking the most.

People in Yorkshire and Humber are the fussiest eaters, with two-fifths citing their fussy nature or dislike of trying new things as the main reason for their tedious teatimes. In comparison, Wales are the most time-poor, with over a quarter still blaming boring diets on their busy schedules.

Mr Wilkinson insisted that it was the job of the industry to continually promote healthy diets mindful of the fact that one in every four young women do not have a taste for milk and half of the older generation of women fear that milk may, somehow, affect their hormones.

National diet and nutrition survey data shows that fibre – so often overlooked as a food group – is lacking in most of our diets, with a ‘fibre gap’ of, on average, 12g per person per day.

“Because we’re owned by the same farmers who produce our milk (very and good for our customers) we know everything we need to know – every step of the way. That’s why you can be sure that Arla dairy products are based on cows’ milk of a very high quality," said Mr Wilkinson.

“Working with animals is the reason why dairy farmers choose that line of work and the wellbeing of the animal is key for success and at the very heart of the dairy farm. Because we are farmer-owned, all of our earnings go back to our farmer owners and our aim must always be to offer the best possible deal for our producers – this means that when people buy our products the money is split equally between each litre of milk that our owners supply.

“Good animal welfare is a result of good management, which influences the quality and the amount of the milk produced and in turn ensures a good economy on the farm – that’s also a key part of our cooperative philosophy.”

The meeting was chaired by David Gravell, vice-chairman of the Carmarthen county branch of the NFU in Wales. He was, he said, particularly grateful to Robin Thomas and family who allowed members to see over their completely new provision for 350 milking cows – nearly doubling the size of their present unit near Llandeilo and displaying remarkable confidence in the future of local dairy farming.