Animal health and welfare within Our Purpose, Our Plan and Foqus planet

FrieslandCampina has formulated a series of objectives with respect to sustainable dairy farming for the year 2020. Two of these objectives are to maintain the current number of member dairy farmers who apply outdoor grazing and continuous improvement of the health and welfare of the livestock on member dairy farms. Foqus planet describes how these objectives are translated to farm level.

The Foqus planet programme consists of three components, being basic requirements, outdoor grazing and sustainable development. With Foqus planet we support our member dairy farmers in making their businesses, and hence dairy farming, more sustainable. FrieslandCampina dairy farmers take good care of their cows and they check the well-being of their cows several times a day. Animal health and welfare are very important subjects within Foqus planet. The requirements of Foqus planet are more stringent than the legal requirements are.

Foqus planet basic requirements

Generally, it can be said that the content of the Foqus planet basic requirements on animal health and welfare is about the health, well-being and housing of the livestock and sensible use of veterinary medicines. The Foqus planet basic requirements explain the most important subjects with respect to animal health and welfare.

Compulsory animal health check

FrieslandCampina only accepts milk from healthy cows. Therefore it is compulsory within Foqus planet to regularly do animal health checks at the farm. Farmers can choose between three types of animal health checks:

Four periodic farm visits by the veterinarian: The veterinarian visits the farm in four pre-indicated months. During these visits, the veterinarian investigates the health of the dairy cows and fills out a checklist specifying animals with health problems, including the body condition score. When a farm has too many cows that require special attention, the veterinarian has to do a veterinary check.
Continuous animal health monitoring: Continuous animal health monitoring is based on available data on animal health (such as mortality rate, animal health status for paratuberculosis, BVD, salmonella, etc.), including the milk production registration (new infections, udder health, milk yield, etc.). For continuous animal health monitoring a comparison with the national average is made to stimulate the farmer to improve. At least two veterinarian visits per year are obligatory, but on average the veterinarian visits a dairy farm more than two times a year.
Cow Compass: During two veterinary visits, the farmer and the veterinarian make an analysis of the farm using the Cow Compass instrument. The Cow Compass measures the health and welfare of the dairy cows. It also provides the farmers insight into the steps that can be taken to optimise the health and welfare of their cows.

To all three animal health checks applies that when the animal health does not meet the standards, the veterinarian has to do a veterinarian check. This veterinarian check includes a physical examination of the cattle on body condition, locomotion score, condition of the young stock, etc. If a farm does not show any improvement, FrieslandCampina will stop collecting the milk offered by this farm.

Compulsory Animal Health Plan and Animal Treatment Plan

In the Netherlands, every farm must have an Animal Health Plan and an Animal Treatment Plan in place. The farmer has to draw up this Animal Health Plan, including an Animal Treatment Plan, in consultation with the veterinarian. In this plan, each farmer sets objectives for his farm on several subjects. The subjects for dairy cattle include mastitis, claw diseases, metritis, ketosis and mortality rate. For dairy calves the subjects are diarrhoea, pneumonia, meningitis and mortality rate. The veterinarian and farmer will discuss the risks of infection pressure (e.g. transmission of diseases) and resilience (e.g. feed, housing) and define the points of attention. The Animal Health Plan is evaluated on an annual basis.

The Animal Treatment Plan is a part of the Animal Health Plan. In this Animal Treatment Plan the veterinarian draws up instructions for the farmer about how to treat a disease of a cow and which medicines are to be used. Farmers always have to follow the advice of the veterinarian when treating a cow.

Proper accommodation and quality care

Clean housing with sufficient space is of paramount importance for animal health and welfare. Therefore this is also part of Foqus planet. All livestock must have free access to feed and water. Quality care for cows and calves is the standard; they must be in good a condition and they have to be clean.

Calf rearing

Healthy cows and calfs with a good animal welfare are the pride of every dairy farmer. As of 2018 the improvement of health and welfare of dairy calfs are part of Foqus planet. First of all every dairy farmer will get insight in the calf mortality rate on their farm. Farms with a high calf mortality rate are must develop an improvement plan in order to lower the mortality rate. There is also a checklist available. The checklist and the format for the improvement plan are created together with the Royal Dutch Veterinary Society . The checklist and improvement plan are helpful tools for the dairy farmer and the veterinarian.

Second is to reward farmers on the KalfOK-score. The young stock rearing quality system (KalfOK) is developed to evaluate and monitor the quality of young stock rearing on dairy farms. This tool for dairy farmers stimulates the improvement of the quality of young stock rearing. It gives insight in detailed aspects of young stock rearing and provides guidance where to adapt the rearing management to improve calf and young stock health. And it shows that the majority of the dairy farms do have a good calf rearing. Farms with a high KalfOK-score are rewarded within Foqus planet.

In addition, since 2018, member dairy farmers have been obliged to apply not only compulsory anesthesia, but also long-acting pain relief when dehorning/disbudding calves.

Sustainable development in Foqus planet

The sustainable development component of Foqus planet stimulates farmers to improve their results. For animal health and welfare three indicators have been chosen:

  • somatic cell count
  • calf rearing (KalfOK)
  • longevity of the cow.

Farmers are stimulated to produce milk with a low somatic cell count. The somatic cell count is related to good udder health of the cow. Sustainable development promotes working on the improvement of calf rearing. Healthy cows leading good lives will live longer and therefore increasing the longevity of the cow is rewarded in Foqus planet.

The indicators with respect to animal health and sustainable development in Foqus planet motivate our farmers to work on our objective for 2020: continuous improvement of animal health and welfare.

Control of Foqus planet

Foqus planet and thus animal health and welfare are assured in three ways:

  • Frequent milk quality control
  • Continuous health checks
  • A farm audit every two years, both announced and unannounced

These audits are conducted by an independent audit firm. In case of poor performance extra audits will be done.

Together with the members

A company that is owned by a cooperative cannot just introduce a new quality programme. This is to be done in consultation with the member dairy farmers. In 2014, the member dairy farmers decided by means of meetings, working groups, meetings with District Council members and in the Members’ Council to introduce the new Foqus planet on 1 January 2015. This thorough approach made sure that members are motivated and convinced of the usefulness and necessity of Foqus planet.

The Foqus planet programme is annually evaluated and proposals for improvement are presented to the member dairy farmers. This also means that the minimum level for animal health and welfare is raised. For 2016 the requirements concerning health and welfare of calves were added and cattle must be protected against unnecessary pain or injury or negative effects on their health and welfare. Non-medical tail-docking is prohibited.

Share knowledge on animal health and welfare

Different themes on animal health and welfare are mentioned on Melkweb, the knowledge centre for farmers on the intranet. This knowledge centre includes articles on animal health and tools, and farmers can share information and discuss this.