There is a long tradition for quality for at Valio dairy farms. For decades, we have encouraged dairy farmers to maintain and improve milk quality with pricing that is based on composition and quality criteria. In the mid-90s, our dairy farms began to use the Valio milk quality system, which is based on the quality management standard. Now, our owners, Valio dairy farmers, are focusing, in addition to milk quality, on improving animal welfare and the environmental issues of dairy farms.
Best milk production practices
These milk production methods describe the best, modern practices for milk production. The guidelines cover four areas:
- milk quality
- animal health and welfare
- the environment
- risk management and safety
Good Valio milk production methods are based on following the law and Valio’s own requirements that exceed statutory ones. These are further supplemented with voluntary, recommended methods. Each guideline includes the principle of continuous improvement.
Milk quality related instructions include, among other things, the criteria for good quality milk and the principles of good milking methods. The guidelines also describe best practices for cleaning various milk processing equipment as well as methods for preventing possible issues that can reduce the quality of milk.
The European animal welfare standard, Welfare Quality, is a part of Valio’s milk production. Production method guidelines include principles for improving animal welfare as well as requirements for feeding, bedding and good animal handling, among other things. Good Valio milk production methods apply to milking cows as well as young cattle. Co-operatives pay their owners a litre-based bonus to farmers that focus on milk quality and animal welfare.
Welfare requirement highlights
- Calf disbudding may only occur under pain suppression and sedation. Pain medication must be in place after the procedure, as well.
- The animals’ hooves must be monitored and treated, if necessary. A hoof trimmer will visit most herds several times per year.
- Each animal must have dry, soft cubicle. Free-stalls must have at least one cubicle for every animal.
Environmental care is also important
The Valio milk production method encourages energy efficiency, increased diversity of nature as well as conservation farming and making effective use of nutrients in slurry. Waste management guidelines require that various waste types are recycled as effectively as possible. Soil maintenance and conservation farming ensures a good grass harvest and helps curtail climate change. Gene modified feed is forbidden for dairy cows and young cattle, and we do not use soy to feed our animals.
Various ways to monitor milk production
We use audits and self-evaluation to ensure good Valio milk production methods are followed. Our goal is to audit 20% of our dairy farms annually. Milk quality is monitored by frequently repeated, various samples of milk. Healthcare veterinarians will visit farms to update their healthcare plans at least once per year, but in practice, veterinarians visit farms far more often. Veterinarians write annual reviews of animal healthcare that provide varied information on animal health and welfare.
If it comes to our knowledge that a dairy farm is engaging in operations that do not meet the requirements of responsible milk production, the co-operative will send a production advisor to investigate the situation. Corrective actions must be completed by a set deadline. In the most serious of cases, milk collection from the farm can be suspended until the issues have been fixed. Milk collection can be suspended because of, among other things, milk quality or animal welfare deficiencies.
Healthcare is cooperative work
Valio dairy farms have a strong focus on improving the health and welfare of the whole herd. In practice, this means that each dairy farmer works systematically with the veterinarian to improve their herd’s overall welfare. The goal is for every Valio farm to have an agreement of cooperation with a healthcare veterinarian. Dairy farmers review the whole herd’s health situation regularly, and create a plan regarding the issues that need to be improved. Focus points may be, for example, udder health or calf conditions. Valio farms have access to our Herd Vet service that the farmer can use to place orders for various veterinary healthcare services.
Valio and its co-operatives also provide welfare services for our dairy farmers. We hold dozens of various events, from training sessions to social get-togethers. Valio encourages all of its owner-entrepreneurs to enrol in a workplace healthcare programme.
Planned healthcare is a responsible way to operate – it can help reduce illnesses in the herd and, therefore, the costs and work that would fall on the shoulders of the farmer.