Farmers ploughing funds into animal welfare

New research reveals that UK farmers are planning to invest more in animal welfare than any other aspect of their farm business in 2018. This comes as McDonald’s UK unveils

New research reveals that UK farmers are planning to invest more in animal welfare than any other aspect of their farm business in 2018. This comes as McDonald’s UK unveils a half million-pound capital grant scheme to help dairy farmers deliver animal welfare initiatives.

The latest Farm Forward Barometer – part of an ongoing programme of research commissioned by McDonald’s UK and conducted by the National Farm Research Unit – found 40% of livestock farmers plan to invest in animal welfare over the next 12 months. This makes it the single biggest focus of investment, ahead of spending on infrastructure (37%) and working capital (30%). The research also showed that 88% of farmers are already accredited by a farm assurance scheme and, of those remaining, 20% are working to gain accreditation this year.

Asked why they are increasing their investment in animal welfare, beyond improving animal health, 88% believe that high welfare standards are vital to making UK farming globally competitive and 59% said they had seen an increased demand for higher welfare products over the last five years from food companies, retailers and end consumers.

The study also revealed a strong sense of personal responsibility amongst these farmers. Almost two thirds (64%) of respondents said they think individual farmers are responsible for driving animal welfare standards in the UK farming industry, followed by the government (44%), food companies and retailers (39%) and consumers (34%).

Mike Tizzard, a McDonald’s flagship dairy farmer, said: “Animal welfare has always been a top priority for us, but now we are investing more than ever in preventative measures to safeguard the health and wellbeing of the herd – from redesigning our cow tracks and collecting yard for optimum comfort, to ongoing monitoring of health and performance data so we can spot problems early. Put simply, happy and healthy cows mean happy staff, high quality standards, and improved productivity”

However, the research also highlighted serious challenges that farmers face when it comes to driving higher welfare standards. 70% cited high production costs, 53% said they had difficulties raising the funds themselves and 54% said they struggled to get outside funding.

To help overcome some of these challenges McDonald’s has just launched its first ever capital grant scheme to help UK dairy farmers wanting to invest in animal welfare. Developed in partnership with Arla Foods, a dairy cooperative, the scheme is making £500,000 available to UK dairy farmers who work with Arla this year. Successful applicants will be awarded a grant of up to £10,000 each to fund innovation in animal welfare on their farm.  The grant will be offered as part of Farm Forward, McDonald’s long-term programme of support for the UK farming industry.

Connor McVeigh, Supply Chain Director, McDonald’s UK, said: “UK farmers have always been front-footed when it comes to animal welfare but, as this research shows, they continue to invest and innovate. Without them, we wouldn’t be able to serve the responsibly sourced food our customers want and expect, from the organic milk we use across our coffee menu and in our Happy Meals to the free-range eggs in our breakfast items.

We want to work hand in hand with farmers to make sure the industry continues to thrive. That’s why, as part of our Farm Forward programme, we are investing half a million pounds this year to support farmers who are driving innovation in animal welfare on their farms. It’s just one of the ways we are doing our part to support this dynamic and evolving industry.”

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