31 May 1996

Teat-to-table traceability call

TOP quality and total traceability of milk from cow to consumer are vital in the new world of milk marketing.

Speaking at a meeting in Ashby-de-la-Zouch, Leicestershire, head of Genus Management Tom Kelly said consumers were demanding assurances that their milk had been produced to top quality standards, under good welfare conditions and that it could be traced back to an individual farm.

"Milk has a tremendous image," he said. "To safeguard that image, particularly in the wake of the BSE crisis, it is absolutely vital for us to maintain and improve quality standards.

"We used to have one fairly tolerant buyer for our milk, the Milk Marketing board, where the issue was how to avoid penalty. Now we have direct buyers demanding quality milk. The emphasis is now on providing that quality to secure a higher price and a guaranteed buyer. Added to that, milk has got to be traceable."

His advice on milk quality also included using bulls which had a high production index and paying scrupulous attention to milking and dairy equipment hygiene.

Animal welfare was a further area of consumer concern, he said. He told farmers that he believed they would eventually have to keep detailed records on issues such as lameness or calf mortality as part of a practical animals welfare code.

He added that total herd management, taking in the issues of quality, traceability and welfare, was vital for producers wishing to maximise on the opportunities of the new milk market.