A group of British farmers is to invest £50m in establishing the UK's largest dairy cow herd.

Peter Willes, a director of West Country cheese producer Parkham Farms, and farmers David Barnes and Robert Howard have submitted a planning application to establish an 8,100 strong herd on more than 4,000 acres of land at Nocton, south of Lincoln.

Nocton Dairies hopes to start milking on 1 October and eventually produce 80 million litres of milk a year. It plans to supply fresh milk into retail and has held discussions with most of the country's major processors with a view to negotiating supply contracts.

It was too early to say whether the milk would be branded or own label, but Willes claimed there was scope to look at some form of branding as it would have "the lowest carbon footprint of any milk in the UK" because of its utilisation of the cows' slurry.

Although Lincolnshire is not a traditional milk producing area, it has abundant agricultural and horticultural land.

One of the benefits of producing milk in the area would be the ability to supply water digestate derived from the slurry.

Nocton has already agreed to supply the nutrient-rich water to three neighbouring arable farmers, which will save them an estimated £2m on their collective annual fertiliser bills.

The dairy industry was likely to remain challenging in the short term, with the milk markets currently depressed, but Willes claimed it was a good time to invest. "We see the pressures that the UK dairies are under, we see them producing less milk, and therefore we see the market improving," he said.

Milking parlour manufacturers and builders were short of work, which meant that Nocton would be able to negotiate competitive construction rates, and interest rates were also low, he added.

"In some ways, you can't do this when milk prices are high, it's just too expensive," he said.