This sustainability program for dairy farming was developed in the Netherlands by CONO Cheesemakers and Ben & Jerry’s.
Its aim is to make the entire chain more sustainable, from cow to end product. We call that: happy cows, happy farmers and happy earth.
Animal welfare is an important issue, they provide the milk for the cheese
Farmers should be able to earn a good living from their farm and our employees deserve a fair and sustainable workplace.
We look carefully at the impact of our activities on the climate and the environment. Continuous improvement is the key.
What does that mean?
Happy cows feel more at ease and live longer!
What have we achieved?
In 2002, CONO Cheesemakers was the first dairy cooperative in the Netherlands to award its farmers a premium for pasturing. It’s pleasant for the cows to be able to graze and rest in the pasture. It fits their natural behavior, which relaxes them: happy cows! That’s why CONO Cheesemakers encourages its dairy farmers to let their cows graze in pastures by offering a pasturing premium of €1.00 per 100 kilograms of milk, provided the cows are outside at least 120 days a year for at least 6 hours a day. While in 2014 only 70% of all Dutch dairy farmers allowed their cows to graze outside according to the pasturing standard, CONO’s average was much higher at 92%!
See here why sustainable farmers opt for a CompassCow and what it brings.
The CowCompass gives our CONO livestock farmers insight into this. The compass was developed by CONO livestock farmers in collaboration with veterinarians. In addition to attending workshops, all participants in our sustainability program have a specially trained veterinarian conduct a CowCompass twice a year. The CowCompass is a management tool that enables the veterinarian and farmer to gauge and evaluate risk situations. Thanks to tailor-made advice, problems are avoided, as opposed to treating sick cows. The average scores in the past 4 years (2010 to 2014) are rising steadily. See here why sustainable livestock farmers are using the CowCompass and how it benefits them.
40% of those participating in Caring Dairy have also joined the “happy cows workshops.” The livestock farmers join a fixed group with about 10 participants and a regular supervisor for 2 years. The themes are: sustainable cows, sustainable accommodations and pasturing. Supplementary workshops are also offered about hoof health, dry cow management, udder health, breeding young cattle, the CowCompass, and the responsible use of medicines. What these workshops have in common is their focus on preventative animal health care: by taking good care of the cows – which also means a good stable and comfortable bedding – they feel better and diseases can be prevented.
In the meantime, the CowCompass, developed by CONO, has been taken over by all dairy companies in the Netherlands. We’re extremely proud of this! But that’s no reason to stand still. We intend to continue our hard work to improve the quality of the CowCompass.
Hard-working farmers deserve fair compensation!
Dairy farmers deserve to earn a good living off their farms, in a healthy working environment for livestock farmers and their employees. Most dairy companies in the Netherlands are run by a farmer and his family. But the work is seven days a week because the cows have to be milked and fed every day. Caring Dairy provides farmers with opportunities to work more efficiently, so that there’s time for other things, like visiting family and friends, and social activities.
Beemster farmers are passionate about taking care of their cows, and you can taste it!
Our farmers are extremely committed to Beemsterkaas. They fully support the Caring Dairy program. As a result, they supply the best sustainably produced milk, from which Beemster cheese is made.
The farmers care for their land and their cows in a responsible way, which safeguards the quality of our product. This is important for us all, especially with an eye to the future. The farmers take good care of us, and we take good care of them, so that their businesses will get a fair chance to thrive, now and in the future.
Sustainable pioneers We also ask our suppliers to work sustainably according to guidelines for the sustainable purchasing of products and services. This was a key priority during the construction of our new cheesemaking facility as well. Sustainable employees A number of CONO employees support local sustainability initiatives as volunteers. CONO Cheesemakers supports these employees by giving them a “day off” to carry out their volunteer work. Moreover, all employees have been given the opportunity to use green energy at a lower price through a collective agreement between CONO
Livestock farmers participate in three workshops in CONO Cheesemakers’ sustainability program, so that their knowledge of animal welfare, the environment and business management is kept up to date. Farmers also receive reports and action plans about their business results regarding the Cow, the Closed Loop and the Farmer projects.
New workshops are being continuously developed around the “Happy Farmers” theme, which offer the latest knowledge and insights on entrepreneurship, animal welfare and the environment. We also want to explore with the dairy farmers the possibility of developing a measuring tool to back up the Happy Farmer initiative.
Thanks to Caring Dairy, farmers are consciously caring for the landscape and soil they work on. Integration into the landscape and landscape restoration are important pillars of the new cheese dairy. We are continuously assessing and alleviating the burden that business activities in the dairy farm and cheese dairy impose on the environment and climate.
The ClosedLoopCompass was developed by CONO livestock farmers and experts.
How can you tell whether the earth is happy?
CONO Cheesemakers and its dairy farmers shed light on that through the ClosedLoopCompass. Dairy farmers use this compass to measure the environmental impact of their dairy company so they can produce milk in a more consciously sustainable manner. The compass provides dairy farmers with guidance on how to close the loop on their dairy farms as much as possible by optimally using what nature has to offer. Just like the CowCompass, 90% of CONO livestock farmers have a ClosedLoopCompass for their own companies.
Every year, participants read in their CSR report how they have improved compared to previous years and compared to the average among all CONO livestock farmers.
We’ve been running workshops on Closed Loop Agriculture for our livestock farmers since 2010. Almost 300 dairy farmers have been exploring the theme. There are also workshops on agricultural nature management and grassland management.
Every year we gather closed loop data from our livestock farmers connected to the Dairy Sustainability Loop, a national tool that was developed at a later stage. Since 2013, we also ask farmers about the measures they take and discuss them in order to plan the best possible improvements.
The establishment of the greenest cheese dairy means we can continue to grow sustainably. We aim to reduce our use of energy by 25% and water by 75%. We also plan to generate part of our energy ourselves. The ultimate goal is to have a climate-neutral production facility by 2020.
Every year our milk haulers drive about 620,000 miles as they pick up milk from 470 dairy farms. Together with them we are exploring ways of making this process more sustainable. A number of these milk haulers are equipped with green “Bi-fuel systems.” These systems reduce CO2 and NOx (nitrogen oxide) emissions. The tankers also use less fuel. These efforts have been rewarded with the “Lean and Green” label, which is given to haulers who are dedicated to reducing CO2 emissions.
The cultivation of soy and palm oil for cattle feed can have adverse effects, such as deforestation, peat digging, loss of biodiversity and poor working conditions for growers. That’s why CONO Cheesemakers has invested in a project for sustainable soy in India (SOYPSI) and sustainable palm oil in Malaysia and Ghana. These products are sustainably cultivated on family farms by soy growers who receive fair compensation. Supporting the same growers year after year has made it possible for them to sell their products with certification. The support has now been converted into the purchase of certificates (RTRS for soybean meal and RSPO for palm kernel expeller) from these growers.
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