27 September 1996

NMP extends assurance requirements to feed…

PRODUCERS SAY

Welfare and quality assurance were to the fore at last weeks busy Dairy Event with the launch of a national code of practice for dairying.

FW examines the latest schemes, including one for feeds, and guages producer and feed compounder reaction to the drive for improved traceability

PRODUCERS supplying Northern Milk Partnership must now retain samples of every feed load arriving on-farm and get suppliers to declare feed ingredients to NMP.

The move, announced at the Dairy Event, makes NMP the first company to extend quality assurance requirements to feed. Feed suppliers will be sent NMP questionnaires via farmer buyers which must be returned to the company to "assess their general ability to meet the standards set," it says.

According to NMP director and Welsh farmer Richard Lloyd, it will not become mandatory for farmers to buy feed from specific suppliers, but should start producers questioning where their feed comes from. "Tesco have floated suggestions about own-brand feed. We are trying to pre-empt them."

Completed questionnaires will be returned to farmers, who will be responsible for sampling feedstuffs as they arrive on-farm. This should allow the company to trace back any problems which may be related to feed, said Mr Lloyd.

Producer reaction has been favourable, said Mr Lloyd. "I am a sceptic, but have been surprised at how many people said we should have been doing this years ago. It does involve more paperwork, but producers realise this is the way the industry is going."

WHEN questionned at the Dairy Event producers welcomed quality assurance, including traceability of feeds, but felt welfare standards were high already. There was concern over the proliferation of schemes and all would welcome an industry-wide scheme audited by a third party.

Tony Mallon, milking 300 cows in Norfolk:

"We have been supplying Lord Rayleighs Farms, and have consequently started supplying MD Foods. They dont have a scheme as far as I know yet, but all the dairy companies appear to want traceability. It seems the way to satisfy public needs, but I think quality and welfare standards are already high."I feed most rations as a complete diet, and so buy straights. It may be difficult to get information on imported commodities, and it is difficult to justify paying much more for feed to ensure traceability in a price-led industry."

Neil Rowe, milking 170 Holsteins in Oxfordshire:

"I supply Unigate, who have a self-assessment welfare and quality scheme. However, unless it is policed by a third party its a waste of time. We also need one industry-wide scheme rather than competing schemes which will demand increasingly harder requirements and eventually drive milk prices down.

"Im not sure how necessary it is to keep feed samples, but I reckon more stringent requirements are in the pipeline. The problem with farmers is that once milk is in the tank they think it is someone elses responsibility – we have to change that view."

Ian Mac-Intyre, milking 140 cows in Scotland:

"I supply Scottish Milk who dont have a welfare or quality code of practice at the moment, but I think there is one in the pipeline. It seems to be necessary because its what consumers want, but welfare is already of a high standard – cows wouldnt produce otherwise. However, I do feel that asking producers to retain samples of feed is taking it too far."

Poul Christensen, dairy farmer and chairman of Milk Marque:

"Customers want quality assured milk that has been produced in an environmentally and welfare friendly way. It will be a requirement, and not something that will give a market edge. But there is a danger that the proliferation of codes will reduce their impact.

"The broad issue is developing customer confidence. I dont think theres any need for us to demand more stringent standards at the moment – we are meeting customer requirements."n

Poul Christensen