Better knowledge, better outcome
The Uelzena Group now has the results from the second survey round for the QM Dairy Sustainability Tool – and they provide a constructive insight into the sustainability performance of the milk producers. Based on these findings, the company is establishing a continuous improvement process.
The Uelzena Group and its member dairies were already involved in the three-year pilot project of the dairy sustainability tool from 2017 to 2020. In total, nearly 7500 farmers from 34 dairies throughout Germany took part in the pilot project phase. The second survey round, which covered the period from November 2020 to the end of March 2021, achieved 66 percent participation among the dairy farmers in Uelzena member cooperatives. At the conclusion of the project, the Thünen Institute sent a report to each of the participating dairies, which summarises the responses of the farmers by dairy. The Uelzena Group also received this report. It shows the results from the second round of the survey and reveals many good sustainability achievements of the Uelzena Group milk producers while also identifying potential areas for improvement.
Positive Uelzena results: Animal husbandry, climate protection, future investments and voluntary work
Good scores for our farmers and animal husbandry: The majority of cows (98 percent) are accommodated in modern resting stalls with space to move around freely and give the animals sufficient space to walk, eat and lie down. The use of tethers is not at all widespread: Only two percent of the dairy cows are tethered – although this is not throughout the year but in conjunction with pasture grazing. This is a form of husbandry that will continue to diminish through structural change.
Positives for climate protection: 57 percent of the agricultural holdings are generating renewable energy within their business or are connected to a community facility. However, the Uelzena Group does not wish to rest on its laurels and is pursuing further approaches to reduce CO2.
Strong investment: The vast majority of businesses (81 percent) invest in modernisation – which can be viewed as an expression of confidence in their own commercial success. This continues a long-term trend that has been observed over the past decades: The herds at each farm are becoming bigger and the holdings are working more efficiently.
High level of commitment to voluntary work: 77 percent of key personnel do voluntary work and, at an average of 120 hours a year, are contributing to making living in the regions more attractive. In addition, 36 percent of the milk producers are actively involved in public outreach for example, opening their farm doors to visitors.
„We would take part in the survey again if it is useful for the sales and marketing of the dairy and takes us forward as a community. That’s what cooperative thinking is all about – moving something forward together.”
Hartwig Küper, milk supplier, Wittenwater
Uelzena’s areas with potential for improvement: Antibiotics, economic situation, biodiversity and workload
Antibiotic use: 51 percent of the businesses have no specific procedure when using antibiotic drying agents. Drying agents are used to stop lactation, in other words, the milking period. The drying phase carries a high risk of reinfection with mastitis (udder inflammation), which is why many dairy farmers use preventative antibiotics.
Economic situation is perceived as difficult: At the time of the survey, about 67 percent of the farms admitted to being dissatisfied with the milk segment of their business from an economic perspective. The pandemic-related lower milk payout price, combined with increased operating equipment costs and increased environmental constraints, led to a persistently strained economic situation for the milk-producing companies.
Biodiversity potential not fully utilised: Extensive grassland is considered to be an area with an especially high potential biodiversity as extensive cultivation contributes to preserving species diversity. 44 percent of the farms have extensive grassland. Based on all farms, 11 percent of the entire grassland is extensively cultivated. There is still potential for improvement in this regard and for the percentage of covered arable land in winter for water conservation and to protect against erosion.
High workload: Farm operators worked 65 hours a week on average. Almost 60 percent consider their own workload to be high, 23 percent feel permanently overworked. 63 percent of farm managers admitted that they do not have any regular free time. This issue is critical.
„The high rate of participation in the second survey highlights that the topic of sustainability is a firm component of everyday life in our dairy farms.“
Dr. Nanke Brümmer, Sustainability Manager, Uelzena eG
GENERAL INFORMATION ABOUT THE 562 SURVEYED FARMS
Average number of dairy cows
Number of farms with a specific focus on milk production
|Percentage of farms that primarily use their own animals for breeding|| |
|Percentage of predominantly commercial farms|| |
Average age of farm managers
|Average land size: land used for agriculture|| |
|Average proportion of grassland of the land used for agriculture|| |