From the beginning of 2021, all 4,300 Valio dairy farms have committed to Finnish dairy cooperative Valio’s sustainability criteria.
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Along with animal welfare, the the sustainability program development includes zeroing carbon emissions from milk production. Pic: Valio

Every dairy farm supplying milk to Valio is now paid a sustainability bonus of two cents per liter. In order to receive the bonus, the farm must practice preventive animal healthcare and systematic monitoring of animal welfare.

Since 2018, Valio has paid a sustainability bonus to those dairy farms committed to taking voluntary actions to improve animal welfare. About 98% of the milk Valio received in 2020 came from farms receiving a sustainability bonus. Since the beginning of 2021, all dairy farms supplying milk to Valio meet the sustainability criteria.

“Dairy farms have persistently worked to improve animal welfare. Three years ago, we set a target of all Valio dairy farms committing to the actions required for the sustainability bonus by the beginning of 2021 to improve animal welfare. We have now reached our target,”​ said Ilkka Pohjamo, SVP, primary production at Valio.

The sustainability program requires farms to take measures to improve the welfare of cows beyond what is required by the Animal Welfare Act. A veterinarian makes a healthcare visit to the farm at least once a year to assess animal welfare and practices at the farm, and to set goals for the farm for the upcoming year. The goals and corrective measures are recorded in Naseva, the Centralised Health Care Register for Finnish Cattle Herds. Other requirements for receiving the sustainability bonus include regular hoof treatment, and the use of anaesthetics, sedation and pain relief during disbudding, i.e. the removal of a calf’s horn buds. The sustainability criteria also require any new barns built at the dairy farm to be freestall, which allow the cows to move about freely.

“With the sustainability program, all farms are now on a more level playing field with each other with everyone committed to the common way of operating and to an independent, impartial veterinarian continuously monitoring the welfare of cows and reporting the results to Naseva,”​ said Kati Montonen, a milk producer from Pertunmaa, Southern Finland. The Montonens have invested in giving cows daily, year-round outdoor access and in the gentle weaning of calves.

Along with animal welfare, the the sustainability program development includes zeroing carbon emissions from milk production.

“Going forward, our focus will be on increasing grazing and year-round outdoor activity. Currently, grazing of one or more animal groups occurs at some 70% of farms. We will also continue efforts to reduce climate emissions from milk production with many farm-specific measures, like carbon farming and biogas production from cattle manure. The measures to be taken at Valio’s dairy farms will have a big impact on the sustainability of Finland’s milk production; about 80% of Finnish milk is produced at Valio’s dairy farms. That’s why our efforts are so impactful,”​ Pohjamo said.

Regional small, organic dairy farm industry had been rocked by Horizon Organic nonrenewal.

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