OPINION: Your old mate reckons Fonterra and its dairy farmer shareholders may well be all cock-a-hoop about the prospects of a near $8 payout this year and one north of $8 next year.
Four focus areas unlock the initial seven cents, which include having and implementing an Animal Wellbeing Plan that is developed with a veterinarian.
Veterinary clinics are required to design a plan to capture the relevant information and create plans to improve and if the requisites change in the future they will need to adjust that plan accordingly. Vet clinics that are members of the WelFarm programme have it covered.
"Our local vets are full of knowledge and experience," Samantha Tennent, general manager of WelFarm Ltd says.
"They're one of the most trusted professionals in a farmer's support network and given the current climate, with processors asking for more information and the consumer's heightened interest in how food is being produced, they are an asset to help guide and support our farmers."
WelFarm is a web-based platform that dairy veterinary clinics use to capture herd related data surrounding health and welfare. And now it has a Wellbeing Plan template that meets the Co-operative Difference requirements for animals. Farmers are able to sign-up for all or part of the WelFarm programme.
"We want to keep it simple for farmers and their vets, we've highlighted the areas that they must complete and we've added some commentary to help them navigate as they are discussing the plan with farmers," Tennent says.
Wellbeing plans must cover topics under the five domains: nutrition, health, environment, behaviour, and mental state. The focus for animal welfare internationally has shifted from simply aiming to reduce negative experiences, to recognising the importance of increasing positive experiences. Cows need to live what is considered a good life and of course there is a close relationship between well-cared for cows and good milk production.
"Farmers want to achieve the best results they can, and it's important that the practices we use on farms are aligned with the expectations of our customers, consumers and communities.
"Having that assurance, and being able to identify areas of opportunity are valuable benefits. But there's also opportunities for farmers to utilise the information to their advantage.
"If we have to do something, let's get the most out of it, imagine if a farmer was able to prevent a cow's death or a couple of lameness cases from regular monitoring and being proactive."
The full WelFarm programme goes above and beyond the minimum requirements but it can be utilised at various levels to suit the farmer and how they wish to utilise the information with their veterinarian. And using a dedicated programme provides peace of mind knowing if Fonterra modifies heir requirements in the future, WelFarm is an easy channel to ensure vets keep up to date.
Reviewing plans annually provides opportunities to reflect and determine if efforts are paying off, and WelFarm reporting can support those reviews. It is not limited to vets too, anyone in the farmer's support network can help them understand what their reporting is showing about their animal health and welfare management, where the opportunities lie and look at the trends as they're trying to improve.
"We know we have good farmers here in New Zealand. We know they are efficient, they're striving to be sustainable and they have pride in how they care for our herds.
"We want to continue our access to markets and have a competitive advantage."