Sustainable dairy farming is of such importance to Woodlands Dairy because the farm is where the production of milk begins and the belief that the pursuit of business success should be in balance with making the world a better place. Global awareness is increasingly holding companies accountable for their impact on the environment.
Woodlands Dairy has committed to ensuring safe and high-quality food products but also embarked on minimising our environmental impact from farm to table.
Woodlands Dairy implemented the Woodlands Dairy Sustainability Project in 2014 in partnership with Trace & Save, an independent agricultural sustainability company, along with our own Woodlands Dairy Milk Standard.
The project aims to assist all of Woodlands Dairy’s producers to become more economically sustainable, to reduce the environmental impact of their farming practices and to ensure that socially responsible practices are implemented on their farms.
This is achieved through the measurement of various sustainability indicators on the farms using the Trace & Save soil, water, atmosphere and nutrient (SWAN) system tool.
The SWAN system tool indicators are used to provide a sustainability score for each farm. The first time these indicators are measured, it forms a farm’s baseline SWAN sustainability score and the proceeding measurements are compared to this baseline.
This shows farmers their progress over time.
Woodlands Dairy producers are able to see the results of their measured indicators on their own online sustainability platform on the Trace & Save producer website. This shows their progress regarding sustainability and allows them to identify future opportunities for improvement. Consumers are also able to trace the progress of Woodlands Dairy producers regarding sustainable dairy farming by checking the sustainability score and observing its trend on the Trace & Save consumer website, www.traceandsave.co.za.
A Woodlands Dairy Milk Standard has also been rolled out to all milk producers of Woodlands Dairy. Producer farms are surveyed every second year to ensure producers’ compliance with legal, regulative and industry requirements. Each farm is audited by an independent quality auditor and measured against pre-determined criteria, accepted and approved by management and the Woodlands Dairy Milk Producers Organisation (WDMPO).
Quarterly visits and surveys are conducted on producer farms by Woodlands Dairy Sustainability and Producer Services departments to verify the upkeep of the Milk Standard by the producers. Producers are required to submit monthly reports regarding critical control points to the Sustainability Department. Any non-conformances regarding sub-standard practices are investigated and addressed.
The criteria used for these surveys focus on the following main aspects: The environment surrounding the milking parlour, the maintenance of the structures and equipment, safe water supply and waste management systems. Criteria used are:
- Housekeeping and hygiene in the milking parlour and the safe handling of chemicals.
- Pre-milk routines and effective separation of safe milk and milk not fit for human consumption.
- Maintenance of milking equipment and ensuring a high level of hygiene of the equipment.
- Milk Storage facility and equipment should be kept at a high level of hygiene and access controlled to the facility. Further, there should be effective measures in place to eliminate access of pests, domestic animals and insects to the facility.
- The safe transfer of milk to the milk storage facility and collection of milk by the tanker vehicle for transporting to the processing plant.
Focus on personal hygiene of staff and relevant training to equip them to handle and maintain the facility and equipment to be food-safe and hygienic.
- Attention is given to the safe handling and storage of animal medicine. There should be access control to medication and records should be kept of animals that have been treated to manage withdrawal periods.
- Furthermore, an effective record-keeping system of all animals should be in place regarding life-history, inoculations, treatments and all tests performed by a veterinarian to ensure the animals are cleared/safe to be milked for human consumption.
The wellbeing of staff working on the farms is measured against compliance with the Basic Conditions of Employment Act. Employment contracts are randomly verified, which stipulates working hours, wages and leave benefits. Furthermore, their housing facilities are also surveyed to be adequate with essential facilities such as running water and sanitary facilities.
The welfare of animals is measured against the internationally accepted criteria of the Five Freedoms of animals. These freedoms encompass the following:
- Freedom from thirst, hunger and malnutrition
- Freedom from discomfort
- Freedom from pain, injury and disease
- Freedom from fear
- Animals can engage in relatively normal patterns of animal behaviour
Animals and the animal handling facilities are physically inspected to verify the above-mentioned criteria in order that animal freedoms are met.
A continuous measuring and monitoring system is in place to measure the quality of milk from every producer supplier to Woodlands Dairy. The quality of milk is measured against the following criteria:
- Somatic Cell Count (SCC)
- Absence of antibiotics
- The absence of added water