ARLA has revealed it trained its farmer owners to drive their tankers during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The dairy co-op said that if 13 percent of tanker collection drivers went off sick, it would have struggled to collect all the milk from its 2,400 farmer suppliers, many of whom are from Cumbria.

As well as collecting the milk from farms, drivers are responsible for monitoring temperature and quality to ensure food safety during transportation.

To avoid a loss of drivers, Arla trained 19 dairy farmers and 10 members of its agriculture team to provide a back-up option for its logistics team if needed.

The dairy co-operative said the training was 'well received' by staff and 'ran smoothly'.

Arla’s agriculture director, Graham Wilkinson, said farmers were asking what they could do to help: "When we asked the elected farmers to help us with this challenge there was no shortage of volunteers.”

The farmers had to undergo video training and practical training with the tanker using social distancing practices.

Should there be a shortage of tanker drivers, Arla would then be able to use drivers from outside the industry with the newly trained farmers.

They would be available to follow the tanker by car and manage the milk collection and quality checking aspects at farms in their region.

Milk supplier Carrie Burridge said it made dairy producers 'stop and think about how important the quality of milk was'.

"Using the technology to test samples and learning how many safety precautions are in place really surprised me, but it’s definitely made me value our tanker drivers even more.”

Whilst the immediate risk has subsided, the possibility of a second peak and the duration of coronavirus still remains unknown.

To support the elected farmers, ten of Arla’s agriculture team, located across the UK, also undertook the training, including Mr Wilkinson. He added: “If we’re asking our farmers to provide extra support to the business, I also wanted them to feel supported by us too. As the saying goes, you should never ask your team to do anything you wouldn’t be prepared to do yourself.”

The training covered the collection process, the health and safety procedures, collecting, labelling and testing samples, the insurance requirements, and the necessary hygiene steps needed to ensure their fellow farmers milk was protected.

Whilst the immediate risk has subsided, with the possibility of a second peak and the duration of coronavirus unknown, the farmers and Arla’s agriculture team will remain on hand to support Arla’s logistics team if needed.

Mr Wilkinson added: “Being a cooperative is not just a business model. It shapes the way you think, your attitude to those you work with and the decisions you take.We are very grateful to all those farmers and colleagues who have stepped up to help support the business and keep the milk moving.”