To maintain animal well-being, milking cows need a suitable environment, the right kind of feed, and to be able to live in the way that’s typical to their species.
A healthy cow produces high-quality milk
It is typical of the species for cows to rest or ruminate in a recumbent position for most of the day.
The number of cows living in free stall barns is rising continuously. In 2014, just over half of Valio dairy cows lived in free stall barns and just under half in tie stall barns. Some 80% were given the opportunity to graze or for therapeutic grazing.
Valio arranged public events in different parts of Finland where cows were let out to graze. These events brought thousands of visitors to dairy farms.
The theme for 2014 was young cattle. Valio Farm Services in tandem with the dairy co-operatives arranged training events related to the development, well-being, and living conditions of young cattle.
Dairy farm endorsement for high-quality farms
Valio dairy farms employ a Quality Manual that provides instructions on the different aspects of milk production. 97% of the farms have signed a quality agreement with a Valio procurement co-operative.
At least 5% of the farms are audited annually. In 2014, audits were conducted on some 7% of the farms.
Around 27% of Valio Group dairy farms have been granted the Valio dairy farm endorsement, which requires that the farm has complemented the Quality Manual with its own guidelines and meets the necessary requirements in terms of milk quality, animal feeding and care, the quality of the environment, and production follow-up.
Good feed and a proper barn
A cow’s typical nutrition is based on grass or grass silage. Finnish cows get the protein they need from turnip rape or oilseed rape, not soy.
The use of GMO ingredients in feed for Valio Group cows is prohibited. Valio has drawn up for its milk producers “Hyvät ruokintaperiaatteet” (Good feeding principles) guidelines which emphasise feeding practices typical to cows. In 2012, Valio drew up ethical goals for milk production. Valio arranges annual seminars for designers and producers to promote new barn construction.
Milk collection drivers identify potential problems
The human element may come into play at a dairy farm, with the potential to compromise proper animal care or cause neglect.
Valio milk is collected fresh from the farms every other day. The milk lorry drivers have been trained to spot any potential problems and seek immediate help If, in regular testing, milk quality is seen to deteriorate, the dairy co-operative’s advisor will visit the farm.
The EU Commission’s goal is to standardise animal welfare evaluation. The Welfare Quality® program monitors animal behaviour. Valio actively follows the development work of a variety of welfare programs.