Operating a successful dairy farm involves a lot more than meets the eye.
As any Canadian dairy man — or woman — will tell you, these days it’s not just a matter of tending to the livestock.
In fact, the success of Canada’s dairy farmers is a compelling story of a sector-wide, ongoing commitment to sustainability and embracing the latest and best in milk quality, food safety, animal care, and environmental advances.
Compared to other countries, Canada is in an optimal position in this regard. That’s because Canadian dairy farmers are proactive and support research and development in order to implement innovative on-farm best practices and new technology.
Dairy Farmers of Canada (DFC) has been investing in dairy research for more than 25 years, with an annual research budget now reaching over $2 million, including funding for both human nutrition research and milk production research.
As a result of this ongoing effort, the average yield per dairy cow in Canada increased by 14 percent between 2012 and 2017 — capping a total increase of 276 percent since 1973.
In addition to investments in research and innovation by DFC, dairy farmers continue to make significant and ongoing individual investments in on-farm infrastructure, equipment, and new technology.
Canadian dairy farmers are proactive and support research and development in order to implement innovative on-farm best practices and new technology.
In 2017, Canadian farmers invested an average of $240,000 into their farms — a total of $2.6 billion across the country.
DFC also invests in on-farm sustainability programs like the proAction® initiative. This mandatory program aims to provide an efficient and coordinated national quality assurance framework for dairy farmers to continue their business leadership in producing some of the safest, highest-quality milk on the planet.
The proAction® initiative is composed of six modules:
- Animal Care: Continuing to treat animals well and providing excellent care is one of the highest priorities of the Canadian dairy industry. The animal care module is essentially an assessment program based on the requirements outlined in the Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Dairy Cattle.
- Milk Quality: Canadian dairy farmers strictly adhere to regulated quality criteria every day to assess milk quality.
- Food Safety: Dairy farmers help prevent, monitor, and reduce food safety risks, such as milk contamination, on farms. Farmers are required to provide evidence to on-farm auditors that they’re taking action daily to maintain program requirements.
- Livestock Traceability: Dairy farmers aim to systematically trace the movements of their animals in order to be prepared in the unfortunate event of a disease outbreak.
- Biosecurity: DFC worked with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) to develop the National Standard — Biosecurity for Canadian Dairy Farms, published in 2013. If an animal disease is found on a farm, farmers will work closely with veterinarians to control it.
- Environment: The dairy industry strives to improve efficiencies and embrace innovation to reduce its environmental impact. Farmers invest in reducing energy use, in improving nutrient management, soil health, and water management, in enhancing biodiversity, and in reducing waste.
Dairy farmers are committed to being innovative and forward-thinking, and continue to support the research and development of better on-farm practices and technologies for adoption on their farms — a commitment that will drive sustainable growth into the future.