Dairy co-op First Milk has launched a new 'responsible sourcing' programme, aimed at promoting the 'important positive role' that dairy farming can have in delivering environmental and social benefits to the world.

First Milk said that its 'First4Milk' programme had developed as a 'natural extension' of the work it has been doing for a number of years with its customers.

The initiative includes the development of a new smartphone app, created in partnership with Kingshay, which aggregates numerous feeds of key data that already exist and enables members to conveniently view data and reports on their smart-phones, giving them real time information to help them manage their farms and deliver the co-operative's objectives.

Commenting on the announcement, First Milk membership director, Mark Brooking, said: “As well as caring about dairy foods being safe, nutritious and affordable, consumers also want assurances about the way that their food is produced.

"We are committed to playing our part in producing food in a responsible way and First4Milk sets out our commitments and key targets to drive improvement. We will be addressing these challenges with an open mind, by adopting new approaches and using emerging technology to enable faster progress on key issues.

"Our new app, developed with Kingshay, will enable members to aggregate and utilise information that they already have by putting it all in one place, without any additional work, and we are committed to developing this tool so that it can become an integral part of how our members manage their farm businesses. We will also continue with our annual Responsible Farming Awards, recognising excellence in sustainable practice among our members.”

First4Milk's targets for improvements in sustainable practices include:

• A 65% relative reduction in C02 emissions, 40% relative reduction in energy use and 30% relative reduction in water use at processing sites by 2025 (against a 2008 baseline);

• Protecting watercourses by offsetting all nitrate, phosphate and sediment production from processing sites by 2022 and achieving a 40% relative reduction in food waste from sites by 2025;

• Eliminating direct waste to landfill from sites by 2025;

• Getting 20% of member businesses involved in existing Next Generation Programme to encourage young people into the dairy sector;

• The launch of an automated animal health and welfare index by end of 2020;

• Having antibiotic stewardship rolled out across membership with members achieving usage below RUMA targets by 2020

• Taking a key role in leading the development of Landscape Enterprise Networks.