More information, better results

Uelzena eG has received the results from the first survey on the sustainability module milk; they provide a preliminary but constructive overview of the sustainability performance of milk producers. On the basis of these findings, the company is developing a continuous improvement process.

Uelzena eG and their member dairies are participating in a three-year pilot project of the sustainability module milk which will run from 2017 to 2020. Approximately halfway through the project, the coordinating Thünen Institute published the first results from the survey, which to date has included almost 5,000 farmers from 21 dairies throughout Germany.

At the same time, the Thünen Institute has sent interim reports to each participating dairy in which the farmers’ previous responses are summarized by dairy.  Uelzena eG has also received the report. It shows the results from the first phase of the survey and reveals many good sustainability achievements of the milk producers of Uelzena eG while also identifying potential fields for improvement. From time to time, some results and the underlying questions do not seem plausible; they are consequently now being discussed and improved together with the Thünen Institute.

Database: 43 percent participation

So far data from 330 milk producers from five member dairies of the Uelzena group have been collected - this corresponds to around 43 percent of the milk producers. The interim results only give a first overview of the sustainability performance of the Uelzena eG as not all farms had been surveyed at the halfway stage of the project. The company is already using this knowledge because a Continuous Improvement Process (CIP) has been established. In particular the poor results were used as a starting point for future improvement measures.

Uelzena’s positive results: Animal welfare, climate protection and future investments

Good scores for our farmers on the subject of animal welfare: The majority of cows (92 percent) are kept in modern free stalls with lying places where the animals have enough space to walk, eat and rest. The predominant type of husbandry is free stable husbandry in combination with pasture walks. In 94 percent of the stables, the cow-to-feeding place-ratio is good (22 percent) or very good (72 percent).There is virtually no tethering of animals any more. Only 2 percent of Uelzena’s milk producers tether their cows in the stalls - however not all year round, but mostly in combination with pasturing. Anyway, this is a form of husbandry that will continue to lose its significance as a result of structural changes.

Brownie points for climate protection: As of today, 57 percent of agricultural enterprises are already generating renewable energy on their own farms or are involved in a joint facility. However, the Uelzena Group does not want to rest on its laurels; we are actively pursuing further ways of reducing CO2 emissions. One of these includes the reduction of cows’ methane emissions, i.e. natural greenhouse gas emissions. A promising approach is a newly developed feed additive that is said to reduce the methane emissions from enterogenic fermentation (the digestion process) by 30 percent. However, this feed additive is still going through the approval process.

Strong investments: The vast majority of companies (85 percent) invest in modernization - which can be seen as an expression of confidence in their own economic success. This is a continuation of a long-term trend that has been observed for decades: The herds per farm are getting bigger and the farms are working more efficiently, which leads to a steady increase in overall milk production despite the fact that some farms are continuing to terminate their businesses (3 to 4 percent per year). 

”Sustainable agriculture is and must be a matter of course. The questionnaire provides the opportunity to document sustainable management, to make it comprehensible to others and to assess it.”

Bertram Scholz, Milk supplier, Bad Bodenteich


Uelzena topics with room for improvement: Antibiotics, economic situation and nutrients

Problems with the handling of antibiotics: 61 percent of the farms have no targeted approach for the treatment of dry cows with antibiotics. A “dry period” means that lactation is stopped and the cows are not milked during that time. This period is accompanied with a high risk of new infections such as mastitis (udder inflammation), which is why many milk producers use antibiotics as a preventative measure. In addition, 19 percent of the farms use antibiotics for udder diseases without an antibiogram. Antibiograms are laboratory tests performed to determine the sensitivity or resistance of pathogens to antibiotics. Uelzena eG intends to raise awareness and encourage improvements amongst its milk producers through a series of information and training events on animal welfare and animal health assessment issues.

The economic situation in 2017 was perceived as difficult: At the time of the survey, about 65 percent of the farms stated that they were dissatisfied with economic aspects of the milk sector. This negative assessment is due to previous unfavorable financial years. In 2015 and 2016, the milk payout was less than 30 cents per kilogram; in previous years it was between 32 and sometimes more than 37 cents per kilogram. There will always be major fluctuations in milk prices which neither the market nor the Uelzena Group can prevent. Uelzena eG will discuss with its members what additional contribution the dairy can make to improve the economic situation of milk producers - in addition to a competitive milk price payment.

Nutrient management under observation:  Nationwide results show that nutrient management is a field with much more room for improvement. 32 percent of the farms state that their nitrogen balance (N balance) is unbalanced. Almost a quarter (23 percent) of the farms do not have the nutrients (N, P and K) in their liquid manure analyzed – nationwide, it is almost half (47 percent) of the farms. In addition, 39 percent of the farms do not take the crude protein content (XP) into account in their fertilizer schedule. Uelzena eG will observe what impact the stricter fertilizer ordinance of May 2017 will have and whether the values will improve in the future.

Objective: Expand the database

In order to further expand the database, the voluntary survey among the Uelzena dairies will continue to be promoted until mid-2019. In the second half of 2019, the evaluation of the first survey will be revised. From mid-2020 to early 2021, survey and evaluation will be repeated in order to highlight any changes achieved by the milk producers alone or through supportive measures of the Uelzena Group.

„There was quite a lot of work involved to persuade the milk producers to participate.  A company-specific evaluation will ensure additional acceptance.“

Volker Suderburg, Manager Milk Management, Uelzena

General information about the 330 surveyed farms

Average number of milk cows

142 cos

Number of farms with a focus on milk production

85 %

Number of farms which mostly use their own animals for offspring

97 %

Percentage of professional farms 

99 %

Average age of plant managers


Average agriculturally used area

241 hectares 

Average grassland of the agriculturally used area

47 %