Chasing a low carbon footprint may sound an onerous task, but Cheshire farmers, Stephen and Christine Pickles, say they have done so by simply trying to be efficient.
The rewards for their efforts can be seen in their position as one of the leading farmers in Arla’s ‘Climate Check’ ranking, with a carbon footprint of 0.98 kg CO2-equivalent per litre of milk produced. This compares with an Arla average of 1.14 kg, a UK-national average of around 1.25 kg and a global average of well over 2 kg CO2 eq per litre.
This not only earns the Pickles family an extra 1 cent (Euro) per litre, simply for taking part, but the efficiencies the scheme has encouraged have drastically improved the farm’s bottom line.
The efficiency drive began in earnest when the family moved to Valley Farm in Goostrey, in 2017. They’d felt lucky to be accepted on the 173-acre county council holding, where they’ve been able to rent a further 80 acres, including 50 acres used for maize.
Having climbed up the farming ladder from the position of herd manager, Stephen only began farming in his own right in 2001. First, he and Christine obtained 34 acres which they stocked with 30 cows on their first council holding. Then they secured a 132-acre tenancy with Cheshire County Council in 2003. After 14 years of hard graft – initially with a flying herd and later breeding their own replacements – they struck lucky with Valley Farm, just as their previous tenancy was coming to an end.
Here, they started with their 120 milking Holsteins, and began to look more closely at their efficiency and profitability.