Dairy farmers break new ground with proAction

Dec 22, 2014

Canadian dairy farmers aspiring to higher standards of animal welfare

By Ryan Harrop, University of Guelph Agricultural Communications Student, for Farms.com

Canadian dairy farmers are aspiring to higher standards of animal welfare, biosecurity and traceability, through a new program called proAction.

ProAction aims to make Canadian dairy producers accountable for their products and animal management techniques. This validation will be similar to Canadian Quality Milk and could be mandatory as early as 2017.

 “There is an immediate need to demonstrate to consumers and processors that producers are making sure their products are safe and they are looking out for their animals,” says Maria Leal, Assurance Programs and Field Service Manager with Dairy Farmers of Ontario.

The main goal of proAction is to ensure the safety of dairy products and provide assurance to consumers. Public opinion, consumer confidence and recent issues such as animal abuse on a dairy farm in Chilliwack British Columbia have forced Dairy Farmers of Canada to take action. Animal rights groups such as PETA have also been pushing to get regulations in place to ensure animal safety. Canada is known worldwide as a leader in the dairy industry for both animals and products. So making a standard for Canadian producers to meet will ensure the continuation of this high quality.

“Dairy farmers need to take credit for having this vision... moving all producers to a common goal... work together and put all their efforts in to move forward as one together,” says Leal.

ProAction is an assurance program to validate the actions of dairy farmers in six areas of sustainable milk production: Environment, food safety, biosecurity, milk quality, traceability and animal welfare.

Farmers’ largest complaint about proAction is the added paperwork needed to validate their farm. But Leal says the administration will be kept, “as simple as possible.” In fact, this new program doesn’t require more bureaucrats or inspectors, as the people needed to ensure its validation occurs are already working in the industry. The same people who do CQM validations will do proAction validations, while veterinarians and classifiers may be used to do animal assessments.

Leal and other field service representatives are currently talking to farmers on their home operations and at conferences to ensure everyone understands the proAction program and its validation requirements. Getting this program up and running will take time, but many farmers believe it will enhance the strength of the dairy industry.

“The consumer needs to feel safe about the product we are producing and this program will help ensure that,” says Krista Fraser, a dairy farmer from Wellington County. “We got into farming because we love it. We love our cattle and our lifestyle.”

Ryan Harrop is a student in the University of Guelph Animal Science degree program, in his 4th and final year.  Ryan will start dairy farming fulltime in the spring of 2015 at his home farm of Harrcroft Acres. He has finished 35 clubs such as vet, life skills and dairy through West Luther and Eramosa and has won the Wellington county level Forage Masters competition. For the rest of his dairy career, he would like to further excel his farms quality of cows and feed, while becoming a more educated and effective herd manager. This article is part of Ryan’s course work for the University of Guelph agricultural communications course, instructed by Prof. Owen Roberts.