Finnish dairy company Valio has announced it will pay a responsibility bonus to its farmers in Finland who commit to various measures to promote animal wellbeing.
The company has described the initiative, which is new to 2018, as “the most extensive renewal of quality and production practices” in its history.
The responsibility bonus is one cent per litre of milk. At present, about 80% of Valio dairy farms are covered by the reforms, and the goal is to have all farms involved by 2020.
Valio director of farm services Juha Nousiainen said: “We’re delighted to see that dairy farmers throughout Finland are so committed to these changes. About 4,600 of the 5,800 dairy farms in the Valio group are already following the new guidelines. We will continue to provide local training, and expect a lot more farms to join the programme this year.”
He added: “Animal welfare is increasingly important to consumers. Responsible production is absolutely essential for ensuring ethical milk production, and for ensuring that dairy products remain attractive to consumers.”
Valio said that promoting a better life for animals means, among other things, that all the cattle on dairy farms are covered by planned healthcare, and that all the animals are included in the centralised healthcare register for Finnish cattle herds. This ensures that a veterinarian visits the farm at least once a year to assess matters related to wellbeing and health.
To receive the responsibility bonus, each dairy farm must also implement regular monitoring of the condition of the hooves. They must also ensure that pain relief and sedatives are given to calves as part of dehorning, and that the procedure is carried out under the supervision of a vet. This has long been standard practice at most farms.
According to the production guidelines, every new barn must be a free-stall barn, meaning that it is built in such a way that the cows are freely able to spend time outdoors or to graze. At present, a total of about 55% of the cows on Valio farms live in such cowsheds.
Valio chairman of the board Vesa Kaunisto said: “Finnish cows are already the healthiest in the European Union, which is why, for example, we use antibiotics very little compared to other EU countries. We support and encourage the dairy farmers to focus more than ever on animal welfare.”
© FoodBev Media Ltd 2017