Progress and challenges revealed by dairy’s 2015 Sustainability Report

Mar 11, 2016

There is a rising demand worldwide for companies and industries to meet the needs of people today without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs.

Australia’s dairy farmers and manufacturers are proud to be part of a global movement which aspires to meet this demand, whatever understanding people have of sustainability.

One of the ways we demonstrate our whole-of-industry commitment to increasing prosperity for industry and communities, our care for people and animals, and minimising our environmental footprint is through the Australian Dairy Industry Sustainability Framework.

Established in 2012 to help guide Australian improvement against 11 targets and 41 performance measures the Framework is lead by the Australian Dairy Industry Council, managed by an industry Steering Committee, and supported by Dairy Australia.

Our 2015 Progress Report shows our improvement, but also our challenges. During 2015 there were several areas of improvement including:

  • The industry’s efforts in helping the Government to secure Free Trade Agreements with China, Japan and Korea, will help increase our competitiveness and profitability;
  • The intensity of waste sent to landfill by manufacturers, which has dropped 46% since 2011, exceeding the target for 2020 several years ahead of schedule;
  • The proportion of farmers with nutrient management plans, which at 58% is on-track to achieve the 2020 target of 80%, having almost doubled since 2013; and
  • The reduction in the use of routine calving induction - 88% of farmers do not use it compared to 80% in 2014.

Although we made good progress against some targets, there are others where more progress is needed, such as increasing the proportion of dairy farmers who are aware of, and implement, the recently agreed (January 2016) standards and guidelines for animal welfare. Currently, awareness stands at 56% and our target for 2020 is 100%.

There are other areas where the industry’s performance has declined, such as the proportion of people who recognise dairy as a quality product, which slipped to 69% from a baseline of 72% (the 2020 target is 80%).

To ensure our industry remains current, relevant and accountable in the context of changing global and domestic conditions and expectations, a review of all the targets, indicators and performance measures in the Framework will be undertaken during 2016.

The review will take into consideration a broad range of emerging issues, stakeholder views, industry priorities, political agendas and global trends.

The ADIC is excited to share our progress thus far – it demonstrates just how powerful dairy can be when the whole supply chain works together toward its common goals.

We encourage you to take the time to have a look at the key areas that interest you in the online report and look forward to hearing your thoughts.

A snapshot of the Australia dairy industry and our sustainability progress...

Routine Calving Induction* Phase-out

Mar 03, 2016

Australian dairy farmers are dedicated to providing a high standard of care for our animals, and to changing practices when in the best interests of our livestock and to protect the reputation of our industry.

The Australian dairy industry wants to be proactive on measures to support excellent animal welfare outcomes and to meet the expectations of the community, our customers and consumers. Failure to meet these obligations, risks the introduction of onerous and unrealistic regulations and/or damage to our reputation and markets.

In April 2015, following a series of meetings with farmers, vets and processors, the dairy industry agreed to work towards the phase-out routine calving induction nationally. Subsequently, the Australian Dairy Industry Council (ADIC) has introduced a target for 2016 to limit routine calving induction to 15% of cows per herd.

This target applies unless an exemption is granted. In 2016, exemptions may be granted either by implementing a herd fertility management plan or by obtaining dispensation for exceptional circumstances beyond the control of the herd manager. An 'Oversight and Engagement' Panel will consider requests for exemptions and grant approvals as appropriate. Whilst there is no legal requirement on dairy farmers to achieve the 15% target in 2016 the dairy industry is seeking to achieve industry-wide practice that is over and above the legal requirements and is confident farmers will adopt the recommended voluntary industry targets as the phase-out progresses.

Progress will be monitored and reviewed to inform the revision of annual targets until the phase-out is achieved and no routine calving induction without exemption for exceptional circumstances beyond the control of the herd manager are performed. The industry will work with farmers, vets and their advisers to ensure annual targets are achieved. This approach is similar to the successful New Zealand strategy where routine calving induction was phased out over a period of time using progressively reduced annual limits. 

The ADIC and Dairy Australia will continue to work with farmers, veterinarians, state dairy farmer organisations, processors and other stakeholders, to ensure all timeframes and targets are workable and achievable. We recognise that this involves a significant management change for some farmers.

As the Australian Cattle Veterinarians play a key role in calving induction, the industry has frequently consulted these experts. In mid-February there was a workshop for cattle veterinarians servicing dairy farms where routine calving inductions are performed. The workshop provided a forum to discuss the approaches and support required to implement the revised industry policy on routine calving induction and the need to cease late inductions.

Key items discussed were:

  • existing fertility programs such as InCalf, InCharge and Repro Right and additional assistance;
  • the implementation of fertility management plans;
  • the dispensation process; and
  • ongoing monitoring and reporting templates.

The workshop recognised that the tools necessary to improve herd fertility and to phase out routine calving induction are available for both vets and farmers but that it will not be an easy process and engagement across the industry throughout the whole process is critical. Vets who were unavailable at the time of the workshop are being contacted by the Australian Cattle Vets and Dairy Australia with information about the phase-out of routine calving induction.

A particular concern recognised by the industry has been the use of late calving induction.

Late inductions (performed within 4-6 weeks of the due calving date) provide no overall reproductive benefit for the herd and should not be performed except for the welfare of the cow or her calf. Early pregnancy testing is required by these practices to make sure late inductions are not occurring.

Further information on the phase out of routine calving induction can be found on the Dairy Australia and Australian Dairy Farmers websites.

*Routine calving induction is all non-therapeutic inductions.


 

New target for routine calving induction in 2016

Jan 25, 2016

Key Points 

  • National policy to phase out calving induction 
  • Improved breeding programs to lift fertility and support farmers through the policy change
  • Learning from NZ approach
  • Targeted assistance and advice to be provided to farmers impacted

Caring for cows is always a key priority for Australian dairy farmers and our industry. The industry is dedicated to providing a high standard of care for our animals, and to changing practices when in the best interests of our livestock. 

In April 2015, following a series of meetings and consultation with farmers, vets and processors the dairy industry agreed to phase-out routine calving induction nationally.

Revised Policy

Australian Dairy Farmers (ADF), Dairy Australia, vets and processors have since been working on implementing the revised policy which is:

“ADF does not support routine calving induction and will work to phase it out through improved herd improvement practices, tools and technologies.”

Calving induction is already reducing in Australia and the dairy industry’s breeding programs such as InCalf and the improvement of fertility by genetic selection are making a difference.

A Steering Group, including dairy farmers, representatives from the Australian Cattle Veterinarians, Dairy Australia and the Australian Dairy Products Federation (ADPF), was established to progress the phase-out.

A data survey of veterinary practices performing inductions was undertaken in 2015. The results confirm estimates from previous farmer surveys that the number of cows induced is declining. It is estimated that in 2015 less than 1.5% of the national herd were induced (approximately 24,000 cows) however there is considerable variation between farms and regions.

The industry is now working to reduce even further the number of cows induced.

Target for 2016

After reviewing the 2015 induction data, ADFwill introduce a target for 2016 that routine calving induction will be limited to a maximum of 15% of cows within a herd unless a dispensation has been granted.

The 15% limit will apply unless a fertility management plan has been implemented or dispensation is granted for exceptional circumstances beyond a farmers control such as herd health issues, severe weather events (floods, fire), AB failure as well as other issues.

An 'Oversight and Engagement' Panel including representatives from ADF, the Australian Cattle Vets and ADPF has been formed. The panel, with support from Dairy Australia, will establish guidelines and consider requests for exemptions exceeding the 15% target set for 2016. Whilst there is no legal requirement on dairy farmers to achieve the 15% target the dairy industry is seeking to achieve industry-wide practice that is over and above the legal requirements and is confident farmers will adopt the recommended voluntary industry targets as the phase-out progresses.

Farmers will apply to the Oversight and Engagement Panel via their vet for special dispensation to carry out inductions in excess of the 15% limit for routine calving inductions.

The Steering Group will work with the Oversight and Engagement Panel to monitor progress and review the target each year in order to establish updated annual targets.

Industry Programs

Improving herd fertility is a fundamental requirement to reduce the need for routine calving induction and it also delivers many benefits for farm profitability and resilience. The industry is working closely with veterinarians and reproduction advisors to ensure advice and services are available to assist farmers with fertility management.

Industry programs such as InCalf, the Repro Right network and InCharge Workshops will be enhanced and the industry will provide targeted reproduction advice to those farmers most in need.

New Zealand

The New Zealand dairy industry has phased out routine calving induction over a period of time and has banned the practice as of 1 June 2015. The industry is liaising with counterparts in New Zealand to understand and learn from their approach; in particular the setting of annual limits with a dispensation process.

Late Calving Induction

A particular concern recognised by industry has been the use of late calving induction. ADF is aware that several veterinary practices no longer perform late calving inductions, as they provide no reproductive benefit. Late inductions (performed within 4-6 weeks of the due calving date) provide no overall reproductive benefit for the herd and should not be performed except for the welfare of the cow or her calf.

Early pregnancy testing is required by these practices to make sure late inductions are not occurring.

ADF will continue to consult with farmers, veterinarians, state organisations and other stakeholders to ensure that the timing, process and outcomes are right for animals and farmers.

*Routine calving induction is all non-therapeutic inductions

 

Dairy to phase out calving induction

Jul 20, 2015

After extensive consultation with dairy farmers, industry and veterinary experts, Australian Dairy Farmers (ADF) have agreed to adopt a new policy, which will see the phase out of routine calving induction nationally.

Calving induction is used as a management tool on a declining proportion of Australian dairy farms. For some farmers, it provides a way of ensuring as many animals as possible are milking at similar times.

Earlier this year, over 35 industry stakeholders, the majority of whom were dairy farmers as well as veterinarians, met to discuss and develop a national policy recommendation regarding calving induction. Following the industry forum the ADF National Council met and agreed to modify ADF’s policy position to the following:

“ADF does not support routine calving induction and will work to phase it out through improved herd improvement practices, tools and technologies.”

The dairy industry’s breeding programs such as InCalf and the improvement of fertility by genetic selection are making a difference and the use of calving induction is reducing. In 2014, fewer than 2% of the national herd were induced (approximately 24,000 cows) and the industry is now working to reduce the need to use this management tool even further.

A Steering Group, including dairy farmers, representatives from the Australian Cattle Veterinarians, Dairy Australia and ADF, was established to develop an action plan. The Steering Group has met twice; developing communications and data collection materials that have been distributed to cattle veterinarians to help progress the phasing out process.

The industry is liaising with counterparts in New Zealand to understand and learn from their approach; in particular the setting of annual limits with certain exemptions.

A particular concern raised at the industry forum, was the use of late calving induction. ADF is aware that several veterinary practices no longer conduct late calving inductions, as they provide no reproductive benefit and should not be performed. Early pregnancy testing is required by these practices to make sure late inductions are not occurring.

ADF is working with farmers, veterinarians, state dairy farmer organisations and other stakeholders, to ensure the phase out works for both animals and farmers. ADF will continue to consult with industry and farmers and is committed to ensuring that the timing, process and outcomes are right for all involved.

Caring for cows has always been a key priority for Australian dairy farmers - they are dedicated to providing a high standard of care for their animals, and to change their practices when in the best interests of their livestock.

 

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