Member dairy farmers of FrieslandCampina to focus on sustainability

14 January 2011

Many FrieslandCampina member dairy farmers are already actively engaged in sustainability. The Executive Board of FrieslandCampina would like all its member dairy farmers to focus on sustainability and would like the performance of all members to be transparent. The Board also believes that all member dairy farmers should make a contribution to outdoor grazing.  It has not yet been decided how members will put outdoor grazing and other aspects of sustainability into practice on their own farms. A round of discussions with members on the subject is planned for Monday, 17 January.

Up to and including Friday, 25 February, more than 100 workshops are open to dairy farmers at which they can actively brainstorm on how to operate sustainably or come up with practical ideas on energy saving or energy production at their own farms. Already more than 4,500 member dairy farmers, who are members of the FrieslandCampina cooperative, have signed up.
The meetings will take place at various locations throughout the cooperative’s working area in the Netherlands, Germany and Belgium. Sustainability is the theme for members in all countries, but may be dealt with differently in individual countries.

Climate neutral growth in the dairy chain
Sustainability in the entire production chain for dairy products is an important pillar in realising FrieslandCampina’s route2020 strategy. In addition to the agreements which the Dutch dairy sector made with local governments on reducing the quantity of greenhouse gases between 1990 and 2020,  FrieslandCampina is aiming for climate neutral growth, both in milk production and in milk processing. The organisation intends to achieve this by working with dairy farmers and chain partners on improving energy efficiency, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and encouraging the production of renewable energy at dairy farms. 

Change in approach to outdoor grazing
Other important sustainability aspects for dairy farmers are the health and welfare of their cows, care for nature, environment and landscape and outdoor grazing.

‘FrieslandCampina and dairy farmers are themselves experiencing how important outdoor grazing is for the perception and acceptance of milk as a product and of dairy farming as a sector. The Board of dairy cooperative FrieslandCampina therefore decided that outdoor grazing will become the standard for our members. And each member will have to contribute to this objective’, says Kees Wantenaar, Chairman of the Board of dairy cooperative FrieslandCampina. ‘We will now start up discussions as to how members are going to put this into practice on their farms and how differences may arise in each member’s contribution. But outdoor grazing will no longer be as optional as it was. Some 80 per cent of our members let their cows graze outdoors, but we can see that this percentage is under pressure. In order to maintain outdoor grazing at its current level, something has to change. We for our part have to make a change, but the authorities too have to make an effort as outdoor grazing is at odds with certain environmental and climate objectives.’

Making the score on sustainability aspects transparent
Many of the workshops now starting for dairy farmers are focusing on how to make transparent the aspects of sustainability for which their farms already have a good score and the recommendations and support they need to realise improvements, also from a techno-economic viewpoint. ‘Our approach is that focussing on sustainable production should go hand in hand with cost price control, which is also necessary in view of the international competition. Examples in the area of health and welfare of cows are udders and hooves. That is an important sustainability aspect and at the same time an element of the business operations a dairy farmer often has to deal with. To create effective instruments that can be practically applied in a variety of business situations, we really need our member dairy farmers’ brain power and experience; also for our activities in Germany and Belgium. Our members’ input is of great importance for the sustainability concept which we want operational by 1 January 2012’, says Atze Schaap, Director of Cooperative Affairs at FrieslandCampina. ‘Ultimately, we want to give each farm a sustainability score that reflects a number of different aspects. If a farmer attains an excellent performance on for instance energy performance and cow health, this should be clear from the score. One aspect of the round of discussions with members is how we should reward sustainability scores financially. Naturally, this is all based on our ongoing objective of realising good or even exceptional quality of the milk and the production process at farms. The sustainability concept should help farmers get a firm grip on operating sustainably.’

Prototype tested in practice
Based on all the ideas submitted by dairy farmers, to whom FrieslandCampina will be talking in January and February on the issue of sustainability, a prototype will be developed in the spring which will be tested in practice in the summer. At the end of the summer, the Board will present the detailed proposals for the first phase of the sustainability policy that is to take effect from 1 January 2012. The first phase will be discussed with the members of the cooperative in the autumn of 2011 after which the final plans will be presented.

Working hard on sustainability
Members are already working hard on sustainability. Together with chain partners, FrieslandCampina has made various facilities available to dairy farmers. For example, recommendations for outdoor grazing have been issued by the Stichting Weidegang (Outdoor Grazing Association) and energy supplier, Essent, has made an Energy Contact Point available to advise dairy farmers who are thinking about producing renewable energy.