Launch of FrieslandCampina sustainability programme in 2012: centring on supporting and incentivising dairy farmers

3 October 2011

Further increasing sustainability can open up new opportunities for FrieslandCampina in the international dairy market and will strengthen the position of dairy farmers in society. Based on this vision, from January 2012 FrieslandCampina will be supporting and incentivising its member dairy farmers to make their businesses even more sustainable than before. In most cases, this will go hand-in-hand with technical and economic improvements for the farmers. Wherever possible, they will be given the freedom to decide how they want to achieve specific aims. The sustainability programme was developed last year in consultation with the dairy farmers. The Board of the co-operative will discuss it with the members of FrieslandCampina in October and November.

“Our members have already been working individually on ways to boost their sustainability. Sustainability aspects play an increasingly important role in the marketing of dairy products, and sustainability is a major social issue. That’s why it’s now even more important for us to make our sustainability achievements visible to our buyers and the public at large. Our sustainability programme, which we’ll be rolling out across the cooperative as a whole, marks a new phase in the relationship between dairy farmers and the co-operative”, Kees Wantenaar, chairman of the Board of the co-operative. “Our guiding principle is that we are and will continue to be responsible for bringing value to the milk our members supply. Because increased sustainability is crucial to this, we want to do even more to support and motivate our members in running their businesses. We know from experience that boosting sustainability often goes hand-in-hand with better technical and economic returns.” This might include lower energy costs, better milk production and more pleasant working conditions due to improved animal health and greater public recognition for the work farmers do.

Freedom of choice for the dairy farmer
The dairy farmers in the Netherlands, Germany and Belgium who are members of the FrieslandCampina co-operative are independent enterpreneurs. Each of these businesses is different, operates under different conditions and has different starting points when it comes to the various themes relating to sustainability. Wantenaar: “Wherever possible, we want to offer our members the freedom to decide when to get down to each aspect of sustainability. Of course, there are one or two they must comply with due to legislation or agreements that have been concluded with the government.”

Practical support for dairy farmers
Study groups and an exchange of knowledge at farm-based meetings and via the Internet are at the heart of FrieslandCampina’s sustainability programme for the member farmers. FrieslandCampina has already taken various initiatives this year to prepare for the launch. One is a series of courses on animal health organised in partnership with vets. Over 4,000 dairy farmers have already signed up for them. Several hundred dairy farmers have also taken part in an energy consumption benchmark study.

Foqus planet: incentives and remuneration for dairy farmers
From 2012 onwards, measures to encourage sustainability will be embedded in what is still the system for gauging quality. Under the new name Foqus planet, this will become a system for monitoring the quality of milk and the production process on the farm, food safety and sustainability. Depending on the performance a dairy farmer wants to achieve within Foqus planet, he will need to score a certain number of points in relation to sustainability. Precisely how many is something he will choose for himself from a broad range of options. This might include energy saving measures (pre-cooler, heat recovery), attending a course on animal health or turning his cows out to pasture.

Encouraging outdoor grazing
As part of the ‘meadow grazing’ component, FrieslandCampina is helping to encourage pasture-feeding through an extra financial incentive scheme. From 2012, the premium paid for milk from pasture-fed cows will be raised from 5 to 50 eurocents per 100 kilos of milk. This will apply to farms that pasture-graze their dairy herds for at least six hours a day, 120 days a year. FrieslandCampina is expanding its range of dairy products based on milk from pasture-fed cows, and wants to charge a higher price for them.
Dairy farmers who don’t satisfy the criteria for milk from pasture-fed cows but do graze 25% of their herds outdoors for at least 120 days a year will be eligible for a partial pasture-grazing scheme. An extensive advisory programme will also be made available to help farmers make a fully considered decision about whether to go over to meadow-grazing.

Developments post-2012
The approach proposed by FrieslandCampina will initially apply to the 2012-2014 period. The package of study and advisory programmes will be regularly supplemented and improved using input from the member farmers.