Canadian milk is guaranteed goodness

Farmers reaching best standards and practices through new initiative


   Dairy cows resting at Skyline Dairy Ltd.  
The last two stages of a national initiative to demonstrate standards of excellence in dairy farming are being developed in Manitoba.
The proAction Initiative, developed by Dairy Farmers of Canada and members, is a system of six modules that show consumers the milk they drink is from healthy animals on farms that follow excellent practices in food safety, milk quality, animal care, traceability, biosecurity and environment.
“We’ve tested animal care twice in the last five years, and we are currently testing the criteria for environment and biosecurity. When we get the results, we will take another look at the criteria, modify them or adjust if needed,” said David Wiens, Manitoba representative for Dairy Farmers of Canada.
Dairy farmers in support of quality guarantee
Recently the initiative wrapped up its second round of assessments for animal safety in the province. A Holstein Canada Classifier, or a veterinarian, usually the farm’s regular veterinarian, assesses the health and condition of around 10 per cent of the herd. The veterinarian also assesses management practices, how calves are raised and stall comfort. In the last round of assessments, 90 per cent of dairy farmers within the province exceeded the requirements. Where improvements were needed, catalogue items were created in the Growing Forward 2 - Growing Assurance program so farmers could apply for funding assistance.
According to Rob Berry, dairy specialist with Manitoba Agriculture, there have been about 60 applications for catalogue items to improve animal welfare, such as improving mattresses and stall dividers, adding a hoof trimming chute and other items to enhance cow comfort and prevent illness.
“This initiative has great value for the dairy industry in Manitoba because it creates a centralized report to present to the public. There is sometimes a perception that intensive livestock production has poor welfare standards, but this is a way to show, in fact, the welfare requirements on dairies are being met and exceeded,” said Berry.
Next steps: disease prevention through biosecurity
While completing assessments for biosecurity, Dairy Farmers will be focusing on disease prevention. Johne’s disease, similar to tuberculosis in humans, can be spread from animal to animal by transportation or equipment. It is important to pinpoint any affected areas to stop the transfer from affected to unaffected. It is also important for individual farmers to know what the risk is on their own farm and how to reduce it.
Ongoing development

   Dairy cows in their stalls at Skyline Dairy Ltd.  
Dairy Farmers of Canada, and members including Dairy Farmers of Manitoba, began working on the Canadian Quality Milk program standards in 2000 based on hazard analysis and critical control points (HACCP). In 2009, the Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Dairy Cattle was completed and in 2011 the groups voluntarily decided to make their quality standards stricter.
“We decided to consult all farmers across the provinces to bring all these initiatives together under one umbrella in a way that would be useful for farms as well as for our clients,” said Wiens. “Clients were noticing an increase in consumer questions as their interest was growing to know more about where their food comes from, how it was grown and if they could know how the animals were treated,” said Wiens.
Because of the industry’s ongoing efforts, all dairy farmers across the country are on the Canadian Quality Milk program and proAction initiative, making Canada a quality leader in milk-producing countries across the world.
The initiative will continue rounds of assessments every year to ensure standards are being upheld.

For more information about proAction visit