Milk quality has long been a focus for Canadian dairy farmers, Dairy Farmers of Canada, and provincial milk marketing agencies. Farmers deal with milk quality criteria every day: somatic cell count (SCC), bacteria levels, freezing point and inhibitors. These criteria are regulated and used by the industry to assess farm milk quality.
Dairy Farmers of Canada and provincial milk organizations have long monitored quality trends, and have led regulatory changes over time to ensure Canadian milk quality standards remain high, relative to other countries.
From 2010 to 2012, farmers improved somatic cell count levels, and now Canadian milk is among the best of the major milk-producing countries.
To maintain our reputation for quality milk, it is important for Canadian milk quality standards to continue to remain high, relative to other countries. Continuous improvement will help ensure Canadian milk remains among the best in the world.
The food safety component of proAction, formerly the Canadian Quality Milk (CQM) program, is designed to help prevent, monitor and reduce food safety risk on farms. Farmers are trained under the program and almost all dairy farms are registered! CQM was the first Dairy Farmers of Canada program to help farmers manage those risks on their farm and provide proof of those efforts through independent validators.
Under the food safety program, farmers provide proof over time that they continue to meet program requirements. The credibility of the on-farm validators is assured through training programs based on Codex and ISO international standards.
Treating animals well and providing excellent care comes naturally in the dairy industry. Farmers know that healthy cows are the most productive, require less work and are the most profitable animals on farms.
Under proAction, all farms are undergoing an animal welfare assessment program, based on the requirements in the Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Dairy Cattle. This assessment demonstrates that dairy farmers meet high standards. The Code of Practice was published in 2009, under the National Farm Animal Care Council (NFACC), with extensive industry and stakeholder input. It reflects current and leading dairy management practices.
The code was distributed to every dairy farmer in Canada and is available here.
The assessment program is based on the Code and its soundness was tested on farms in both 2013, and 2014. Official roll-out on Canadian farms started with training for farmers in 2015 and farm validations in 2017 following the Food Safety (Canadian Quality Milk) validation schedule.
Currently, milk is traceable from farm to plate across Canada. However, the Livestock Traceability System does not yet span the entire food chain in Canada.
Product traceability – from the farm through to the consumer – builds trust with customers. It is also one of the key attributes consumers value in a product, along with nutrition, consistency, taste and cost. Traceability is also important in maintaining the trust of trading partners, keeping markets open, and gaining access to new markets.
Food distributors that have implemented traceability systems have found that costs can be reduced. Traceability helps to identify, and eliminate logistical inefficiencies in the production, transportation and marketing system.
Farmers are familiar with tagging all of their cattle and maintaining those tags throughout an animal’s life. Unfortunately, this information is not being fully used and is not maintained throughout the entire food production chain.
Governments are planning to strengthen traceability regulations across Canada to allow rapid response to animal health emergencies and avoid heavy losses and a large-scale cull of animals. This would prevent disease from rapidly spreading between farms.
With a livestock traceability system, the origin of an animal is known, the route it took and any contact it had with animals or other products at various premises.
Service workers, salespeople, veterinarians, and feed and delivery trucks are all regular visitors to multiple dairy farms. They present a potential biosecurity risk. The introduction of new animals is also a disease risk to the herd.
In addition to maintaining the health of the herd, farm-level biosecurity management practices minimize or prevent the introduction of infectious disease agents which could have an adverse effect on the economy, and human health. Biosecurity practices need to minimize the spread of disease both within a farm operation, and off the farm.
Biosecurity is becoming increasingly important to the Canadian dairy sector, which continues to evolve toward fewer farms with highly productive animals. Canadian dairy genetics are in demand, especially through the international marketing of semen and embryos, and needs to be protected.
The global emergence, and re-emergence of bovine diseases in recent years has had a major impact on the cattle industry, both within Canada and abroad. Outbreaks of contagious diseases, such as Foot and Mouth Disease, Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) and Rinderpest in cattle in other countries, have resulted in significant economic losses, as well as animal health and environmental concerns. These outbreaks serve as a warning sign of the need for a comprehensive, coordinated approach to bovine biosecurity in Canada.
Environmental sustainability is among Dairy Farmers of Canada’s priorities. DFC has taken several steps toward this commitment to the environment, including:
- An environmental life cycle analysis (LCA), which shows farmers in Canada are doing well compared with other countries in terms of environmental impact. DFC is currently in the process of updating the LCA results.
- Dairy Farmers of Canada invests in research and knowledge transfer related to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. It has also long promoted best practices related to the environment, such as reduced tillage and water efficiency improvements.
Dairy farmers independently take measures to improve their efficiencies and reduce their environmental impact. Over 70% of dairy farmers have completed an environmental farm plan, which provides them with an action plan to mitigate, manage or address risks on their farms. Many dairy farmers have a nutrient management plan or work with advisors to improve nutrient use efficiency at both the animal nutrition and crop management levels. Precision agriculture technologies that aid in this management are increasingly common on dairy farms across the country.
The environment module is based on the Environmental Farm Plan and remains under consideration.
For more information please go to the Dairy Farmers of Canada proAction site