'At Viewmount Farm we believe it is extremely important that our milk is produced in a sustainable way'
To us, sustainable dairy means using farming methods that have the lowest possible impact on the environment, are animal friendly, reduces our carbon footprint and contribute towards boosting public support for milk producers. This demands continuous improvement of the skills and enterprise of all dairy farmers as increasingly stringent demands are being specified by the consumer for dairy products and the way in which they are produced.
The dairy sector, in part due to its visibility and impact on the landscape, is closely connected with the community. Society appreciates dairy farmers role in and contribution towards maintaining the cultural landscape and rural vitality. To maintain this trust we must continue working on reducing our energy usage, greenhouse gas emissions and mineral emissions.
The Irish dairy sector uses the Origin Green Sustainable Dairy Assurance Scheme (SDAS) as the model for making the increased sustainability of the dairy sector measurable.
The scheme offers us the tools to achieve a sustainable business while demonstrating to consumers our care for our animals and the environment.
The SDAS is the national dairy scheme that sets out requirements for best practice on Irish dairy farms in animal health and welfare, land management, biosecurity, safe farming practices and the production of safe milk. It also provides a framework for measuring the continuous improvement of each participating farmer, recording and monitoring sustainability credentials at farm level.
The scheme is a rigorous, independently verified and internationally accredited programme. Origin Green and the Sustainable Dairy Assurance Scheme along with dairy farmers and manufacturers are measuring, learning and improving – giving international buyers access to a safe, secure dairy supply chain that meets and exceeds international sustainability criteria, with integrity and transparency.
SUSTAINABLE PRACTICES ON OUR FARM
Soil fertility and health is the foundation of productive agriculture and an important component of environmental stewardship. Limitations to soil quality must be addressed, and high levels of soil fertility and health must be reached and maintained to sustain consistent quality yields of grass in our case.
The nutrients harvested from a field in grazing and silage making must be replaced in order to meet the needs of future production. For dairy cows, only 20% of the nutrients they consume are exported from the farm in milk, much of the remainder is excreted in manure and urine.
We take advantage of this nutrient cycling by growing high quality grass using soil nutrients, feeding that grass to the cows to produce milk, and then using the manure and other materials, such as bedding, to return nutrients to the soil to grow more grass!
All our slurry applications are carried out using a tanker fitted with a 'dribble bar' that greatly reduces the ammonia loss to the atmosphere.
Energy management (fuel and electricity) helps us to reduce our carbon footprint while also impacting farm financial sustainability. Farm energy efficiency and alternative energy practices have evolved to provide many opportunities to improve energy efficiency and even produce electricity on some farms.
Water is a critical natural resource that needs to be used judiciously and protected from unfiltered runoff. Rainwater collected from farm buildings is stored and recycled for washing the milking parlour and yards. Effluent from the dairy and milking parlour is stored in a tank and spread on the land when appropriate.
Energy & Water
Financially sound management is critical for the long-term success of a dairy farm. Sustainability must work alongside profitability if the business is to succeed. We keep a close eye on farm income, expenses, and production costs, while also planning for the long term. Utilising good financial management strategies and sound debt management gives us better opportunities to stay profitable.
Farmers have long played an important role in our local economy providing employment, supporting local businesses and providing educational experience. Farming remains a critical part of our rural community.
Impact on Economy
Protecting soil from erosion is critical to maintaining soil health. Managed applications of fertiliser and slurry in suitable weather conditions avoids nutrient and sediment pollution in waterways. Careful management of our land and livestock reduces the likelihood of soil erosion and some practices also improve soil quality by adding soil organic matter.
Soil Loss Management
Biodiversity is crucial to a working ecosystem. We as farmers are one of the largest groups of land managers and are often involved in ensuring farming and wildlife are living beneficially together. Our proper management of hedgerows and field boundaries has a major impact on countless wildlife.
A critical component of production management is in avoiding and eliminating weed issues in our grassland. We are constantly re-evaluating our weed control management strategies to ensure efficacy, cost effectiveness and minimal risk to the environment.
Well cared for dairy cows are a key ingredient to good dairy products and sustainable dairy farms. To maintain high quality animal care, careful management is vital from birth to milking and finally until the time a cow leaves the farm. This includes raising our calves and heifers in a good environment, providing calm interactions between cows and ourselves, and caring for animals so they can enjoy basic freedoms. We ensure that our cows have nutritious quality feed, clean abundant water, comfortable areas to rest, and appropriate health management.
For us success is not just measured in financial terms. To have a wholly successful business we must have a good quality of life, including good working conditions and reasonable work hours.