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Sustainable Dairy Farming
As a leading food manufacturer, Strauss Group plays a vital part in the global aspiration of zero hunger and reducing the lack of food security. However, the ongoing dialog we have with consumers increasingly demonstrates the additional values and considerations we are expected to lead. One of them is the values-based consideration of producing animal-based food, which is expressed in increased animal welfare in our supply chain. At Strauss, we take responsibility for what takes place in our dairies. In 2017, we mapped the processes of our dairy supply chain and launched the Sustainable Dairy Farming program for improving the living conditions of the cows and reducing the environmental impact of cowshed activities among partnering dairy producers.
This program included criteria that were gradually implemented at over 60 external dairies that provide milk to Strauss dairies in northern Israel, and at over 20 external dairies that supply milk to the Yotvata Dairy in southern Israel. The program grew out of a 360 °responsibility approach of the dairies for what is taking place in the cowsheds and at the milk suppliers. The program can only be implemented thanks to the close partnerships that the dairies created, including the years with these suppliers. As part of this program, the dairies were required to implement sustainability criteria that set a new and leading standard on an international level. The criteria focus on defining the living conditions and care for the cows in order to provide them with the highest levels of welfare within the limitations of the life of an industrial animal, along with regular guidance and training.
Strauss Israel and the Yotvata dairies invested over 1 million shekels in improving the infrastructures and in training the dairy farmers, while placing an emphasis on expanding the implementation to Yotvata’s milk suppliers. We are pleased that we succeeded in implementing over 90% of the criteria, among them even the most complex, at Yotvata’s suppliers. To follow the goals and achievements of this initiative, see the Sustainable Dairy Farming website.
The Criteria for Sustainable Dairy Farming:
Purchasing tools to manage the day-to-day routines according to the norms of “Mutual Dairy Farming”, professional consulting from Dr. Sivan Lacker, the founder of the Mutual Dairy Farming initiative, which includes a training series and monthly visits to 22 dairies. Mutual Dairy Farming provides dairy farmers with applied methods for improving the welfare of their cows and calves based on the behavior and physiology of animals.
Increasing the frequency of treating cow manure (cultivation operation) with the aim of creating a dry, hygienic surface, which results in a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and improves the health of the cows.
Ceasing the practice of freeze branding cows and switching to electronic identification that monitors a range of data about the health of the cow as well as its milk production, enabling the personal treatment of each cow.
Reducing calf isolation time to up to 14 days after birth.
Increasing the frequency of personalized cooling of the cows using cold showers eight times a day, depending on the season and the cow’s body temperature.
Hoof trimming (the process of filing down the hoofs) timed specifically according to each cow, as opposed to it being scheduled twice a year.
In order to alleviate bovine mastitis, a gradual drying up of milk production during periods when the cow is not being milked.
Feeding cows and calves on feed from date cuttings, in a way that strengthens a circular economy by using a maximum of raw materials from the area near the dairies that hasn’t been previously utilized.
Upgrading the medical treatment infrastructures for the cows.
Treatment of wastewater and greenhouse gases in the vicinity of the dairies in dedicated facilities and switching to solar energy
Reduction of use of antibiotics: Selectively dosing the cows with antibiotics and not sweepingly as was done in the past.
All the criteria are based on international research, on norms recommended by the United Nation’s Food and Agricultural Organization as well as by associations of dairy producers around the world that are leading the changes taking place in industrial dairies. When implementing the criteria, we realized that this change not only enables us to live up to the moral responsibility to take comprehensive action for the benefit and welfare of the cows, and to reduce our environmental impact, but also offers dairy producers business benefits, and ensures that the cows are healthier. And thanks to some of these changes, milk yields are higher.
In 2020, we chose to share this initiative with our consumers, and we launched a dedicated website (in Hebrew) that transparently presents the criteria, what percentage have been applied, and our future goals for the program. In addition, we invited our consumers to come and visit Yotvata’s open cowshed in order to experience, first hand, what was taking place (and in line with Corona guidelines).
In addition to these criteria, we work to implement sustainability values in our supply chain. At the majority of our dairy farms that supply milk to Strauss, solar roofs were installed to create energy for use in the cowsheds, with the aim of expanding this initiative to all our dairies in the coming years. We began a pilot to generate electricity and energy independently from agricultural and bovine waste, to benefit the environment.
We regard the “Sustainable Dairy Farms” program as a process that requires constant updating, assessment and improvement. Its processes have been substantially upgraded since the start of the program, and we are committed to continuing with the improvements. As follows are a number of ways in which we plan to expand this program:
Increased transparency: In 2021, we hope to begin the implementation of pilot to install cameras for online broadcasts from the Yotvata dairy, to provide transparency to the general public (the project was planned for 2020 but was frozen due to the Corona crisis).
Welfare of the cows: Non-separation of calves in 2021 – We are about to begin a pilot where calves are not separated from the cows and rather stay with them until the weaning phase. This is an innovative, groundbreaking initiative that doesn’t currently exist in industrial dairies. The pilot is expected to last for 20 months, with close monitoring by veterinarians, nutritionists, medical professionals and other experts.
Environment: In 2021, we will begin a pilot to include vertical farms in the production of food required for the nutrition of the cows. This is an innovative initiative and has not been done anywhere in the world to date. The goal is to enable the production of fresh, local, higher-quality food for the cows, while decreasing the use of environmental resources – land, water and transport.
Educational initiative to empower the younger generation of dairy farmers in Israel: The Yotvata Dairy launched a project to adopt the dairy of the Eshel Hanasi youth village, where youth who study in the dairy farming track, will benefit from an improved curriculum from the perspectives of sustainability and conscious dairy farming, training of the instructors and the students, and workshops in Israel and abroad. Yotvata launched this project with the aim of training a new generation of Israeli dairy farmers on innovative principles of sustainable dairy farms, and an understanding of the importance of bovine development and the dairy farm environment, and out of a desire to strengthen the future of the dairy farming profession in Israel. This project endeavors to be a model for implementation on a national level.
Imilac™ antibiotic substitute: Introduction of a new substance aimed at drastically reducing the use of antibiotics given to cows to treat bovine mastitis.
According to the results of these projects and pilots, we may add goals and expand activity in these areas.
For more information on sustainable dairy farming, click here.