Farm animal well-being

To maintain their well-being, even healthy milking cows need a suitable environment, the right kind of feed for a ruminant, and to be able to live in the way that’s typical to their species.

Farm animal well-being

A healthy cow produces high-quality milk

Finnish cows are the healthiest in the EU, and antibiotics are used only in the treatment of sick animals. For example, Valio’s laboratory uses DNA typing to identify the pathogen if a cow has mastitis, and selects a precision treatment accordingly.

Valio Group has determined good practice for Valio milk production, which takes into account the requirements for the cows’ well-being, in line with the Welfare Quality® program.

It is typical of the species for cows to ruminate in a recumbent position for most of the day.

Over half of the cows live in free stall barns and that number is rising continuously. Fifty new free stall barns were built in 2016 and only two new tie stall barns. Some 70% of the cows were given the opportunity to graze in the summer. 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.

Our theme for 2016 was well-being and is being followed in 2017 by responsibility. Valio Farm Services in tandem with the dairy co-operatives’ production advisory services arranges training related to the well-being of people and animals, and on responsibility in accordance with the new guidelines for production methods.

Valio Farm Services provision is largely free of charge to entrepreneurs.

New record set for milk quality

In 2016, Valio again set a new record for milk quality, as the share of best category milk (E) rose to 96.5% (2015: 96.1%) and the lowest quality category (2) accounted for just 0.01%.

Dairy farm endorsement for high-quality farms

Valio dairy farms will adopt new production method guidelines, and the requirements shall be applied as of 1 January 2018.

The new guidelines require e.g. that anaesthetic and pain relief shall be used in dehorning calves and that the farm has signed up to the cattle health care system. All dairy co-operatives will provide the farms with training for the implementation of the new methods. 98% of the farms have signed a quality agreement with a Valio procurement co-operative.

28% 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. The dairy farm endorsement will be renewed in 2017.

High-quality feed, a high-quality barn and business know-how

A cow’s typical nutrition is based on grass or grass silage, alongside which Finnish cows get the protein they need from turnip rape, rapeseed, and legumes such as peas. Essentially, no soy is used in feeding the dairy cows. Also, the use of GMO ingredients in feed for Valio Group cows is prohibited.

Valio has drawn up “Hyvät ruokintaperiaatteet” (Good feeding principles) guidelines for its milk producers, which emphasise cow feeding practices. The extensive Artturi® services provide owner entrepreneurs with expert assistance, training, news, a Facebook group on silage, silage quality analyses, and a harvest time service.

Valio arranges training annually for both experts and Valio dairy farmers on barn construction and functionality, silage, animal health care, and financial management. More than 1 000 Valio dairy farmers have taken the business coaching course and have now been updated with a lean approach supporting efficiency and coping.

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 expert will visit the farm..

At least 5% of Valio dairy farms are audited annually. In 2016, audits were conducted on 5.5% of farms, supplemented by many farm development and advisory visits.