Current Situation | a Complete Dairy Quality Assurance Scheme | Animal health | Animal welfare | Milk extraction | Cleaning | Environment | Monitoring by the industry itself
Agricultural production has slowed down. Racks are overflowing with inexpensive products from all over the world. Quality has become the deciding factor for agricultural income in a surplus market. The producer offers the consumer more than he needs. There is a lot of choice as far as quantity and quality are concerned.
Wholesale distribution determines the needs. Irregular quality not only has major economic consequences for the producer and the process but also for distribution, the distribution industry has learned its lesson from recent crises.
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. For this reason, wholesale distribution makes several demands on its suppliers. These demands are not only regarding baseline agricultural quality but are also made based on good agricultural practices on the part of the producer.
The modern consumer is far removed from todays agricultural activities and production of food. The food chain is complex and unclear to the consumer.
In earlier times, whatever was produced found its way to the consumer through local merchants. More production meant more income.
Todays intensive cattle-breeding is captured in rather horrific pictures. The consumer is not to blame for any of this; he judges the situation based on the information that is put in front of him. The media determine reality.
The industry, in this case the dairy farming industry, as a result, could do with a change in mentality. The modern consumer still, to this day, holds the dairy industry in high regard and trust. The biological quality of raw milk and the dairy products that it produces are beyond dispute. However, the danger exists that the product is considered to be good, but that the producer and his methods are questionable.
The slogan for the future should be: It is better to be in control than to be controlled. Answer the question before it is asked. Say what you do and do what you say; but more importantly, make sure that you are credible. Proof and dependability form an integral part of driven quality management.
A quality customer oriented approach with the goal of offering the customer what he believes he deserves will be more the focus of attention in the future than the product oriented approach where the resulting quality goes without saying.
DQA, a Complete Dairy Quality Assurance Scheme
The producers are responsible for the quality and the safety of the products which they bring to market. The producers are also responsible for monitoring the quality and safety of their own processes. Self-monitoring will then be the key to successful marketing.
In this respect, the government must be responsible for standardization and adequate inspections.
Up until now, milk has probably been the most over-guarded raw material in the agricultural world. The global quality control together with a compensation and penalty points system along with the systematic inspection of critical points within the total production process are focused on the product. However, self-monitoring should also guarantee the proper production conditions.
After all, the modern, educated consumer wants to know where a product he uses comes from. Terms from the areas of conservation, animal protection, biotechnology and others have made their way into the dairy industry and have now taken up permanent residence.
Good production methods, a concern for animal welfare and the environment, the purity and safety of the final product and the assurance that foreign particles do not enter into the process, are the subjects of discussion at DQA, (Complete Dairy Quality Assurance Scheme).
Besides food safety, DQA also concentrates its efforts on other aspects of sustained agricultural production.
A major part of these assurance steps go above and beyond the law. Here below follows a review of these standards that go above and beyond the requirements of the law.
The DQA certificate guarantees good agricultural practices on the dairy farm. The procedures manual for submitting a tender explains more than one hundred quality assurance items in five essential categories of dairy production.
The existing regulations speak to the issues of animal health and welfare, milk extraction, purification and the environment, along with the addition of several points regarding good agricultural practices.
The objective of the animal health module is to promote the cows health through far-reaching preventive measures and focused disease control.
A supplementary general inspection of the cows general health conditions, the introduction of a medications register, the required GVP recognition (Good Veterinarian Practice) for the farms veterinarian and the establishment of a procedure to identify animals that have been treated with medications are activities that are already being implemented ahead of impending legislation. Efforts are also being made to reduce the use of medications in order to guarantee dairy safety at any point in time, for example by the compulsory gauging of levels in dairy equipment on an annual basis.
In the second module, animal welfare, living quarters, food and care of the dairy cattle make up the quality check points.
As far as living quarters are concerned, numerous standards have been introduced in connection with leash systems, the size of resting areas and feeding stalls, the safety of the stall, the lighting and ventilation of the stall. The availability and quality of drinking water are defined and grassy fields are made available.
Suppliers of mixed feed, wet by-products and dry simple feed are required to obtain GMP recognition; sales among dairy farms are registered. Separated storage should reduce risks.
The milk extraction module assures hygienic milking by motivated milkers who use dairy equipment that functions well in a hygienic environment. The pre-treatment of the udders is also an important factor in DQAs quest for quality.
In order to avoid any possible contamination, extra attention is also given to the proper storage of the milk in a quick and deep, large refrigeration milk tank, equipped with an agitator that is in good working order, with an easy-to-read thermometer, a milk viewer and an influx safety device (for new tanks), placed in a good, well-lit, ventilated room with easy access.
Both the milk equipment and the refrigeration tank are inspected annually and bi-annually respectively by a certified specialist who inspects operations in accordance with ISO standards.
Effective cleaning of the dairy cow stalls, the milk equipment, the refrigeration tank and the milk and tank room is the point of focus in the cleaning module. The quantity of cleaning agents and disinfectants used is also inspected along with the cleaning temperature and the water used that is to be of the same quality as drinking water.
Last but not least is the environmental module. Concentrated efforts on the safe storage of cleaning agents and the care of the working environment should create the optimum environment for healthy, safe and responsible dairy production.
Monitoring by the industry itself
This is the first time in Belgium that a complete and comprehensive quality system has been initiated. The DQA project was started in collaboration with various players in the dairy industry. The national DQA Interprofessional Workgroup was established for this purpose. This national consultative committee defines the DQA system guidelines and makes all decisions concerning the contents of the DQA procedures manual. The workgroup consists of:
- representatives from the dairy industry through the Belgian Confederation of the Dairy Industry (BCZ),
- representatives from three agricultural organizations, i.e. the General Farmers Syndicate (ABS - Algemeen Boerensyndicaat), the Farmers Union (BB Boerenbond) and the Wallonian Federation of Agriculture (FWA Fédération Wallone dAgriculture),
- representatives from the two executive committees of the DQA project (DQA-Vlaanderen DQA-Flanders and the Comité du Lait - Dairy Committee),
- representatives from the partnerships in dairy quality.
DQA-Flanders was established on December 16, 1999 as an executive body for the national project DQA-QFL-QMK for Flanders. The founders are the General Farmers Syndicate (ABS - Algemeen Boerensyndicaat), the Belgian Confederation of the Dairy Industry (BCZ - Belgische Confederatie van de Zuivelindustrie), the Farmers Union and the Flanders Promotion Center for agricultural and fishery marketing (VLAM - Vlaams Promotiecentrum voor Agro- en visserijmarketing).
The goal of this organization is to develop, implement and maintain DQA certification for dairy farming in Flanders and the Flemish dairy industry.
The Comité du Lait (Dairy Committee) in Battice has been in existence for many years (1964) and its main task is to enforce official monitoring of dairy quality.
At the end of 1999 the committee was allocated the same task as DQA-Flanders, but for the Wallonian part of the country.
The dairy industry wants to remain at the forefront in its approach toward quality by using self-monitoring systems throughout the entire process.
The ultimate goal is for practically the entire Belgian production of raw milk to be DQA certified.
Furthermore, the whole process from producer to consumer will be laid out in a permanent system in order to boost the dairy industrys quality image towards the consumer.
It all started with the production of milk on dairy farms, but it was soon followed by milk collection, transport and delivery. The DQA Transport procedures manual contains 48 quality check points regarding milk collection, transport, receiving, cleaning, the drivers and supplier identification.
Dairy processing that is presently carried out in accordance with ISO- and HACCP-specifications and the distribution of the finished products are the subject of readiness studies.