Dairy production and products
 

Farm practices

The objective of good dairy farming practice is the on-farm production of safe, quality milk from healthy animals under generally acceptable conditions. To achieve this end, dairy producers need to apply Good Agricultural Practice (GAP) in the following areas:

  • Animal health: Poor animal health is one of the principal constraints to increasing small-scale dairy productivity, as it results in high morbidity and low production. Overcoming this constraint could significantly improve productivity and result in real and direct benefits for producers.

    Good dairy farming practices for animal health are establishing the herd with resistance to disease; preventing the entry of disease on to the farm; establishing effective herd health management; and using all chemicals and veterinary medicines as directed.
  • Milking hygiene: Most small-scale dairy producers in developing countries milk their animals by hand, often in the presence of the calf to stimulate milk release. Where sufficient labour is available, hand-milking allows milk extraction with minimal capital investment, equipment maintenance, and cleaning. In many societies, milking is traditionally done by women, but women are prohibited from milking in some pastoral and mixed farming communities. With modernization, these milking customs are being lost. On medium to large dairy farms, where improved dairy breeds are used, it is more common and convenient to milk animals with milking machines. Irrespective of the milking method (hand or machine), it is crucial to avoid contamination of the milk during and after milking.

    Good dairy farming practices for milking hygiene are ensuring that milking routines do not injure the animals or introduce contaminants into the milk; that milking is carried out under hygienic conditions; and that milk is handled properly after milking.
  • Nutrition (feed and water): A dairy animal’s health and productivity, as well as the quality and safety of its milk, depend largely on providing the right feed and water. The requirements for feed and nutrients of dairy animals depend on factors such as physiological state, milk production level, age, sex, body condition, body weight, weight gain, health condition, level of activity and exercise, climate and season. The feeding of livestock is a major challenge in many developing countries. This challenge is even greater in the tropics because of seasonal fluctuations in the availability of feed – caused by periods without rainfall – and the poor quality of feed. When producers cannot rely on locally available feed resources, the feeding of dairy animals can become more expensive. The feeding methods used by small-scale dairy producers in developing countries are grazing, which requires fairly large areas; tethering, which permits full use of roadside verges, areas around cropland, etc.; and stall or pen feeding, which requires more labour inputs. When supplements are provided, they are either fed to the entire herd or to individual animals. Dairy animals consume large amounts of water for milk production and pregnancy. Access to water therefore has a great influence on milk production.

    Good dairy farming practices for nutrition are securing feed and water supplies from sustainable sources; ensuring a supply of feed and water of suitable quantity and quality; controlling the storage conditions of feed; and ensuring the traceability of feedstuffs brought on to the farm.
  • Animal welfare: Animal welfare is the application of sensible and sensitive animal husbandry practices to the dairy animals on a farm. These practices must be applied to not only milk producing animals, but also young stock, replacements and males in rearing units.

    Animal welfare is primarily concerned with the well-being of the animals. Dairy farming practices should aim to keep animals free from hunger, thirst and malnutrition; from discomfort; from pain, injury and disease; from fear; and to engage in relatively normal patterns of animal behaviour.
  • Environment: Environmental concerns from the dairy sector include the impact on land degradation (e.g., overgrazing), climate change, air pollution, water shortage, water pollution, and loss of biodiversity. Dairy production is an important source of greenhouse gas emissions, especially carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O). Ammonia (NH3) emissions from livestock housing facilities and from poor manure management are also a cause of concern in countries across the globe.

    Good dairy farming practices for the environment are implementing an environmentally sustainable farming system; having an appropriate waste management system; and ensuring that dairy farming practices do not have an adverse impact on the local environment.
  • Socio-economic management: Social responsibility and economic sustainability are integral to good dairy farming practice, as they address two key risks to the farming enterprise. Human resource and financial management ensure the sustainability of the enterprise.

    Good dairy farming practices for the socio-economic management of dairy farms are implementing effective and responsible management of human resources; ensuring that farm tasks are carried out safely and competently; and managing the enterprise to ensure its financial viability.

Farm practices facts

  • Methane accounts for more than half of the total emissions from milk production (52 percent); nitrous oxide contributes 30 to 40 percent.