Sustainability

We know our customers want us to operate as a sustainable business and this is something that we take a great deal of time and care to achieve.

To be sustainable we need to anticipate the future opportunities and challenges ahead. That's why we work with FAI (Food Animal Initiative), an independent consultant, to review our livestock standards, welfare reporting, and to give guidance on our research into key animal welfare issues.

Find out more about our research and development projects

Dairy

We’re working with our dairy farmers on a Bovine Virus Diarrhoea (BVD) eradication programme with the aim of achieving BVD-free status. Co-op is also pioneering a way of capturing accurate data on antimicrobial usage, before sharing our usage data with Solway Vets, who will evaluate and deliver the data back to Group members. This also gives farmers information to discuss with their own vet, and allows them to benchmark themselves against the rest of their Group.

Pork

We know that responsible medicine usage is an important issue, and that responsible antimicrobial use on farms is important. We’re working with our Pork Farming Group to see if altering the pH of water can improve the gut health of pigs and ultimately reduce the use of antimicrobials.

We have also been trialling the 360° Freedom Farrower™. This could improve sow and piglet welfare, as it allows sows greater movement before and after birth compared to the standard design of farrower.

Lamb

We're currently looking to create a tool that enables important data from a number of sources to be collected and given to our lamb farmers – driving improvements throughout the whole supply chain. Farms will have information on how production efficiency can be improved and how to benchmark themselves against others.

Beef

We're working with our beef farmers on a range of projects. These include maintaining rumen health and improving the performance of dairy bulls. We’re also looking at how to maximise cattle health on farms – working with farmers and their vets to implement a specific farm Herd Health Plan. A well-balanced diet is also important for health, so we’re researching how different feeds can affect animal performance and health, and letting our beef farmers know.

Chicken

We worked with our supplier to investigate whether our chickens would prefer to have perches, platforms or bales. Environmental enrichment is important to us. We concluded that the best option for our chickens were straw bales, as it allowed chickens to exhibit their natural behaviour. It also presented the most bio-secure option compared to the perches and platforms.

We’re also working with our chicken suppliers, Food Animals Initiative (FAI) and The University of Bristol to trial a new method of measuring chicken welfare called Qualitative Behavioural Assessment (QBA). The QBA considers the behaviour of animals within its environment, and our study aims to explore this as a method our farmers can use to observe bird behaviour and monitor animal welfare.

Laying hens

Keel bone damage is a key welfare issue within laying hens. We are working to identify ways to minimise this within various farm systems. The aim of the project is to identify high risk areas and put best practice in place to make sure it is kept at an absolute minimum.

Salmon

Sea lice is a challenge for the Scottish salmon industry and treatment can be expensive and unsustainable. Using cleaner fish such as Wrasse and more recently Lumpfish is an environmentally friendly method of treatment is proving to be an effective tool in helping to control sea lice numbers.