DMK 2020: Agriculture
Agriculture produces the valuable raw material milk which is the basis of our products. Our more than 7,500 dairy farmers all over Germany and the Netherlands are the owners of the DMK Group. Our aspiration is to increase the well-being of our cows and at the same time reduce their environmental impact. Both goals can be achieved by keeping the cattle in proper conditions, systematic health management, responsible feed cultivation and appropriate feeding.
The Milkmaster Programme supports the dairy farmers in implementing the demanding task of combining entrepreneurial success and sustainability now and in the future.
Field of action: animal welfare
DMK pursues a comprehensive approach to animal welfare and environmental protection: cow comfort, animal health, feed cultivation, feeding and milk quality are integrated into the Milkmaster Programme and have been reviewed annually since 2015 for all dairy farmers on the basis of 148 ratios, including housing systems, for example.
Only happy cows give high-quality milk. The extent of a cow's well-being depends on a variety of factors. They include exercise and the opportunity to move around freely, the space in the cowshed, the resting areas – in particular, special ones for sick and calving cows - the climate in the cowshed and the use of cow brushes. The dairy farmers take a variety of measures, which are incorporated in our Milkmaster Programme, to ensure the cows' well-being. Modern cowsheds offer cows a high degree of comfort all round.
The health of the cows is the foundation of responsible milk production. It influences the quality and safety of the milk and therefore of food. Veterinary offices conduct the legally prescribed random sample tests at all German dairy farms. Animal health management on the farms is carried out using modern measuring methods and regular external monitoring. Topics such as the proper use of antibiotics are also included. All these aspects are embedded in our Milkmaster Programme. DMK works together with partners along the entire value chain to further improve the health of the cattle.
Field of action: climate protection
Climate protection plays a major role for stakeholders – in this area, DMK works hard to improve the eco-balance of dairy farming. In past years, DMK calculated several eco-balances for agricultural production and therefore has robust data on its impact and the key correlations available. DMK pays special attention to dairy farming, because it accounts for around 70 percent of dairy products' ecological footprint. Examples of influencing factors are the feedstuffs used, the application of fertilisers and the milk yield. The ecological impact of pasture grazing, in contract, have not yet been systematically confirmed: pasture grazing is helpful in some regions, less so in others. Practical environmental protection is established on many farms. One in two farms generated its own renewable energy in 2017. The majority have installed photovoltaic plants, while biogas systems account for the largest share of the energy generation. Energy-saving measures for milking and for cooling the raw milk, such as plate coolers and pipe coolers or heat recovery, are now taken for granted by many dairy farmers.
DMK will engage even more strongly in climate protection on the farms in future. One future approach, for example, will be to strengthen the exchange of best practices among the farmers – "learning from the best".
Milkmaster is DMK 2020's implementation programme for the dairy farmers, with which DMK sets standards for more sustainability in the dairy industry's agricultural working and production methods. The DMK milk producers were closely involved in the development and adoption of the programme, which was launched in 2014 and with its integration in the milk supply regulation has been binding for all milk producers since the start of 2016.
The core of the Milkmaster Programme lies in our farms' continuous further development in issues relating to animal welfare, nature conservation and quality. A production code ensures standardised alignment on topics such as feeding, animal welfare, animal health, the rearing of calves and young livestock and milk storage. Many of the topics that are relevant to customers and the public are addressed in the Milkmaster Programme.
Proper loose housing meets our high requirements on animal welfare, animal health and optimum feeding conditions. Modern cubicle sheds provide space for exercise and facilities for resting and lying down that are laid out with straw or mats. These sheds provide cows, which feel comfortable at an outside temperature of around 15°C, with suitable conditions and give good opportunities to observe the cattle or give them additional feed individually, e.g. in the case of pregnant cows.
The conditions under which cattle are kept are clearly positioned in the Milkmaster Programme. The combination of loose housing systems with access to pasture is welcomed for all cattle (dairy cows and others) where conditions on the farm allow for it. As a cooperative characterised by a wide variety of regions and farms with heterogeneous local conditions under a single umbrella, we see this as a fair balance between animal welfare and farm conditions.