Dairy Farmers of Canada Launch proAction Sustainability Initiative

The Dairy Farmers of Canada (DFC) officially launched their sustainability initiative this week in Ottawa. The initiative, called proAction, includes national standards for milk quality, food safety, animal care, traceability, biosecurity and the environment. It’s a way to showcase what the industry’s strengths, while also encouraging constant progress and improvement.

“As dairy farmers, we are very proud to collectively demonstrate responsible stewardship of our animals and the environment, sustainably producing high-quality, safe, and nutritious food for consumers,” said Wally Smith, president of DFC. “Today’s event is a great opportunity for Canadians to see exactly how we are accomplishing this, what measurable standards currently exist, and how dedicated we are to continuing to improve in our responsibility to provide sustainable food.”

The initiative outlines specific targets the DFC hope to achieve, and will entail independent audits to ensure compliance by individual farms, and improvements for the industry as a whole.

“We have long been sustainable in our farming practices and are very passionate about what we do,” said David Wiens, DFC vice-president, in a release. “Our respect for resources, animals and the environment are the reasons the industry is sustainable today. We intend to move forward, building on our strengths, to be sustainable tomorrow.”

The RealAgriculture team had the chance to meet up with Wiens at the Western Canadian Dairy Seminar, before the launch of proAction. His talk focused on animal welfare, and the new animal care assessment program.

“The animal care assessment program is one element of the proAction initiative,” he told us, adding that it received approval from the council at DFC last summer.

The program will assess the health and well-being of dairy animals, looking at factors like lameness, body condition score, housing, and access to fresh feed and water.

“Now that it’s been approved, we’re going into a training period until September of 2017, and all validations done after September of 2017, it will then be mandatory to have had this assessment done on the farm.”

For the first two years, Holstein Canada classifiers will be doing the assessments, after which, Wiens explained, it will be open to others.

And besides playing an integral role in the development and approval of these programs, Wiens also took a more hands-on approach, when his farm was used as a pilot farm for the new animal care assessment.

Opening your farm to scrutiny is a “sensitive area,” he admitted, but the producers he worked with were careful and constructive in their feedback.

“It’s helpful because, with being scored, we can begin to address those areas that would need a little more attention on the farm.”

Wiens did end up making some changes to the farm, and saw an immediate increase in productivity of animals and decreased somatic count.

He added that a comparison to others in the industry will be very useful, as a strong indication of where their farm stacks up.

The programs involved in proAction will be rolled out to provide ample time for farmers to learn about the requirements and begin implementation. As mentioned, the animal care assessment portion will be made mandatory in 2017. Milk quality, food safety and traceability are already well implemented, and biosecurity and the environment will be incorporated into the validation process in September 2019 and 2021, respectively.

For information on everything from the six key modules to technical resources for registration, check out the proAction website.

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