Sustainable dairy farming for everyone

“Sustainable dairy farming for everyone” – the MPO’s vision – was developed to optimally support South African dairy farmers in meeting the increasing demands from government, community and customers.

Agricultural production systems are under increasing scrutiny, which is part of a global trend, and coincides with greater community demands and concern over food security. It is therefore important to focus on actions to ensure that dairy farming remains competitive and responsible, as well as communicating with stakeholders about what is being done to achieve sustainable dairy farming objectives. On the one hand, dairy farmers have to keep abreast of what is expected of them regarding the production of safe, quality products, environmental management, animal welfare issues and people and community responsibilities. On the other hand it is a constant challenge to inform the public and stakeholders of what the industry is doing, and how it is keeping pace with expectations and requirements. Unfortunately, the public’s perception of dairy farming often does not match the reality today.

Dairy farmers are expected to:

  • Produce world class products to the highest safety and quality standards.
  • Keep animals healthy and comfortable under generally acceptable conditions.
  • Apply environmentally sustainable farming systems.
  • Comply with legislative and regulatory requirements.
  • Fulfil social responsibilities with regard to employees and the community.

 In order to live up to these expectations dairy farmers need all the help they can get – the latest information on the above issues, user-friendly guidelines on what is expected from farmers and advice on how to comply is the first step in the right direction. The Dairy Mail supports the MPO’s strategy through the content of its Stewardship pillar by equipping them with relevant, practical information related to the management of product integrity, animal welfare, environmental sustainability and social aspirations.

Stewardship is defined as  

the careful and responsible management of something entrusted to one’s care.

Dairy farmers are stewards of product integrity, environmental management, animal welfare and social responsibilities – a mammoth task indeed!

Stewards of product integrity

Dairy farmers are in the business of producing food and aim to ensure that the safety and quality (integrity) of their raw milk satisfies the highest expectations of the food industry and consumers. This includes:

  • Effective herd management.
  • Application of efficient biosecurity measures.
  • Responsible and effective use of all chemicals and veterinary medicines.
  • Hygienic milking of animals.

Environmental stewardship

Environmental stewardship means the responsible use and protection of the natural environment through sustainable practices and conservation. Sustainable dairy farming requires the maintenance of the quality of both surface and groundwater sources and soil. In addition, managing global environmental issues such as climate change and greenhouse gas emissions are key concerns for the industry.

The efficient management of dairy waste to protect and preserve the environment are becoming increasingly important as herd sizes in the dairy industry grow. Dairy farmers are required to implement environmentally sustainable farming systems, have appropriate waste management systems in place and ensure that dairy farming practices do not impact adversely on the local environment. This has led to considerable interest in the production of renewable energy on farms.

Dairy farmers need to manage natural resources, particularly water, responsibly while carefully bearing the following issues in mind:

  • Environmental impact of dairy farming.
  • Catchment capacity to absorb nutrients entering surface and groundwater sources.
  • Impact of water quality on land-use and product quality

Stewards of farm animal welfare

Dairy farmers are expected to apply sensible and sensitive animal husbandry practices to the dairy animals on a farm. Dairy farmers have to constantly maintain the well-being of all their animals to ensure that milk is produced by healthy animals under acceptable conditions. The following issues impact on the management of animal welfare:

  • Increased public awareness of the welfare of farm animals.
  • Rapidly changing perceptions of animal welfare.
  • Less tolerance for animals suffering from the consequences of human failures.

 Stewards of people and communities

 Dairy farmers have the responsibility to provide their workforce with a physical workplace, employment conditions and employment relationships that cultivate trust and optimise skills, motivation and productivity.

 Dairy farmers are stewards of people employed on and around dairy farms and have to be constantly aware of the following issues which have an effect on employees:

  • The demanding nature of dairy farming, which includes long hours, particularly during calving.
  • Health and safety issues due to the physical nature of the work.
  • Farming attitudes and work culture.

Dairy farmers have a significant impact on the economy of surrounding rural communities and have an important role to play in the support and upliftment of these communities.

Stewardship is a daunting task and the MPO is committed to do everything in its power to assist dairy farmers to be optimal stewards of the fragile and important resources entrusted to their care.

The strategic core function of the MPO is to focus on sustainable dairy farming for all

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