NewStream Farm Animal Care, Volume 3, Edition 5
Young dairy farmers talk welfare
Posted: June 4, 2015
Setting the stage for a new generation of progress
Continued animal welfare leadership is one of the most important issues to the future of Canada's dairy industry and that was reflected clearly in discussion among young dairy farmers at the Next Generation Forum in Red Deer, hosted by Alberta Milk and sponsors.
"It was a great opportunity to be in an environment where people my age could ask questions and be a part of an open discussion about the dairy industry and the future we can create together," say Brittany Derksen, one of the approximately 40 young dairy farmers from across the province in attendance.
Speakers from across the country joined to help inspire and educate the farmers. Presentations ranged from big picture themes like governance and national issues, to on-farm topics like succession planning. Animal care and welfare was a major, featured part of the agenda, with the full morning dedicated to this topic.
Critical part of social license
A key presentation, "Welfare on Alberta Dairy Farms," was delivered by Dr. Betty-Jo Bradley. She provided a veterinarian's perspective on perceptions, concerns, motivating change and driving improvement.
Dr. Betty-Jo Bradley
Bradley began by discussing the perception of welfare on dairy farms, noting that while views vary greatly depending on a person's level of connection to agriculture it's important the industry continually reaches out and shows its commitment to welfare and continual improvement.
"Consumers have become increasingly conscious of animal welfare issues," she says. "They expect that dairy cows are provided for in ways that respect their nature and strives to ensure good welfare."
Social license is an important concept, particularly for the next generation charged with managing expectations in today's hyper-aware, hyper-questioning environment, she says.
"We build and maintain consumer trust by demonstrating that we share a common ethic about how animals are provided for and treated in agriculture," says Bradley. "We need to demonstrate that we treat our cows well and with compassion because it is the right thing to do, rather than solely because it makes the best business sense."
Investing in the future
Empowering everyone involved in the dairy industry with ongoing knowledge is critical, particularly young people, says Alberta Milk Chairman Tom Kootstra. That was a major reason for the event.
"The next generation of dairy farmers are the biggest asset we have," says Kootstra. "Events like these help not only educate current or future farmers, but ensure that they connect with others in their same position so they can rely on one another for support."
Kootstra was impressed with the level of engagement and feedback from participants. "The industry is in very good hands," he says.