Disposing of milk on farm

If you need to dispose of milk on your farm, here are the key areas to consider and specific guidance.

While milk and colostrum is on the farm where it was produced, animal by-product (ABP) regulations don’t apply. As long as it stays on the farm, examples of disposal include:

  • Spreading it on your land without stopping animals from grazing on the land (the 21-day grazing ban doesn’t apply)
  • Feeding it to calves on your premises

If you plan to spread the milk on your land, although ABP regulations don’t apply, you must still apply for a waste disposal permit from the Environment Agency (EA) before spreading milk on your farm, unless you qualify for an exemption from waste permitting

Milk is one of the ‘wastes’ which can be disposed of to land, but a waste exemption needs to be registered with the EA. Most dairy farmers should have done this, as reject milk (from cows under treatment) will be disposed of in this way, usually via the slurry store or dirty water system. It comes under a general exemption – gov.uk/government/collections/waste-exemptions-using-waste.

To find out if there is an exemption for your waste operation, and check that you meet the conditions, visit: gov.uk/guidance/register-your-waste-exemptions-environmental-permits#choose

It’s free to register waste exemptions, and registration lasts for three years.

Conditions do apply:

  1. Before spreading, the waste must be diluted with at least an equal amount of water or slurry, and waste must only be spread on the land once in any 4-week period
  2. The waste must not be stored longer than 24 hours before it is spread
  3. The place where waste that is stored or land which is to be spread must be at least 10 metres from a watercourse and 50 metres from a spring, well or borehole.

One way of diluting uncollected milk is to put the milk in the slurry store or dirty water store. With the need to dispose of milk ongoing, and slurry lagoons potentially being emptied there may not be much content to dilute milk with to comply with dilution requirements. The management of slurry stores is essential if significant quantities of milk need to be disposed of over a prolonged period. If slurry volumes are low, water may need to be used to dilute the milk. Remember that if milk is added to a slurry store, it must only be stored for 24 hours.

Application limits may also be reached if land has already been spread on or cropping/crop growth makes spreading unsuitable. Be aware that if you plan to use your neighbours land to spread on this would require the milk to be taken off farm (therefore becoming a ‘waste’) and further regulations would then need to be complied with.

The Environment Agency has produced further guidance on spreading slurry or milk on land, or storing slurry, but states clearly that this only applies if you cannot comply to current guidance as a result of coronavirus restrictions COVID-19 Regulatory Position Statement (RPS). Examples of reasons for use are staff absences or supply chain failures. You must obtain written permission from the Environment Agency before using the COVID-19 RPS. The COVID-19 RPS will be withdrawn on 30 September 2020 unless it is extended, so please check the official statement for the latest information.

Further information can be found in the links below:

There are slightly different regulations applied in Scotland and Wales. Please check the following links for more information.

Natural Resources Wales

Scottish Environmental Protection Agency

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