The standard in responsible dairy farming
We want to ensure that we produce, process and sell our raw milk responsibly and use resources economically in doing so. German agriculture, and the dairy industry with it, enjoys a positive image in society. Nevertheless, it is also under critical observation by the public, particularly in the areas of farm animal welfare conditions, feeding and animal health. That's why we developed Milkmaster. Milkmaster describes our standards for responsible milk production in concrete and illustrative terms. That means we invite a debate with society. At the same time, the programme gives farmers support in continuously improving their farms.
Our Milkmaster house
At its core, Milkmaster consists of a monitoring (report) and a confirmation, advisory and bonus system.
The goals of the Milkmaster Programme
The Milkmaster Programme became binding on all dairy farmers from the beginning of 2016 following its integration into the Milk Delivery Regulations.
All DMK dairy farms:
- work to the same production standard
- periodically deliver the required ratios from the Milkmaster Report
- are externally audited every two years
- receive annual reports on their results
- take part in annual benchmarking
- have their economic strength enhanced
Modules of the Milkmaster Programme
The Code, the Report, and confirmation, advice and bonus systems are the five modules of the Milkmaster Programme. Find out more by clicking on a module’s building-block
The Milkmaster Code sets forth fundamental and specific standards, rules and goals to which the dairy farmers commit as a community. The Code therefore has the role of a vision for responsible milk production. It not only sets the direction for our day-to-day activities, but also for all decisions of relevance to the future. It provides the farmers with guidance and society with answers to its questions.
The Code is divided into 14 chapters and covers the total complex of responsible livestock farming with dairy cattle – starting with the birth of the calf through to the production of high-quality milk, and including the cultivation of feed on the same farm as well as the cows' feeding. The Code also contains recommendations on topics such as farm animal welfare conditions, biodiversity, dehorning, udder health, environmental protection and quality assurance.
The Milkmaster Report is systematically derived from the Code. The aim is to make the standards for responsible milk production measurable and verifiable. It demonstrates a transparent and meaningful documentation of all farms It offers the farms regular reports on their individual situations and progress, including benchmarking with other farms. This forms the basis of individual advice on improvements for every farm.
Put simply, it is a comprehensive questionnaire that picks up on the individual topics (chapters) of the Code and attaches 148 ratios and a defined percentage points-based scale to them. Just under 5,800 dairy farmers or 83 percent took part in the Milkmaster self-assessment in 2017. This corresponds to 96 percent of the milk volume. 77 percent of the dairy farmers with 94 percent of the milk volume participated in the previous year.
On the basis of their self-assessments, the dairy farmers receive an annual report on their results with an in-depth analysis of their own performance compared with that of other dairy farmers. Every two years, every dairy farmer is subjected to an announced audit conducted by an external, independent and accredited certifying company. The data from the self-assessment in the Milkmaster Report were tested. This confirms compliance with the standards that we have agreed in the Milkmaster Code.
By 2018, all the dairy farmers involved had been audited on schedule, around 6,800 audits were performed between 2016 and 2018.
The continuous further development of our farms is a central feature of Milkmaster. The advice module is intended to provide support for this in all the areas of Milkmaster. The advice comprises precisely tailored optimisation strategies for all farms.
The DMK consultant will answer all questions about milk quality and milking hygiene. A network of specialists, including vets, specialist consultants and scientists, is being built up to provide specialist advice on Milkmaster topics, for example udder and hoof health, shed architecture, environmental protection and resource efficiency. Specialist forums and online seminars support the advisory process as an information platform.
Milkmaster uses a bonus system to reward the work of dairy farmers who perform especially well in cow comfort, animal health, feed cultivation, feeding and milk quality with a cash premium.These topics include, in the cow comfort section, the loose housing system with a specific area for calving or the isolation of sick cows, in animal health, threshold values for somatic cell counts and lifetime yields, and in feed cultivation, the use of certified soya. The bonus is linked to specific important ratios. These include topics from DMK 2020 such as cow comfort, animal health, feed cultivation, feeding and milk quality. The bonus is intended as a reward for those farms that fulfil certain requirements on responsible milk production. At the same time, it is intended as an incentive for all farms to develop further and achieve the goals we have set forth together in the Milkmaster Code.
In the amount of 26.5 million euros for the period from 1 January to 30 September. They amounted on average to just under 0.6 eurocents/kilo of milk, The Milkmaster bonus for 2016 came to a total of 33.6 million euros and in 2017 42.6 million was distributed.
If needed, research projects are contracted out to independent institutes for clarification and the results integrated into Milkmaster accordingly. 2015 witnessed, for example, the completion of the three-year research project "Development of a Sustainability Management System for Beef Cattle Farms: Feeding, Resources, Climate, Good Farm Animal Welfare", conducted by the German Agricultural Society (DLG) and supported by the German Federal Environmental Foundation (DBU).
An eco-balance drawn up in the reporting period using data from 23 farms showed among other things that the type of feed and the spreading of fertilisers are clearly reflected in the environmental impact.
The expert panel ensures that Milkmaster satisfies the latest findings of science and research at all times. Members of the expert panel include scientists, practitioners, veterinary surgeons and representatives of selected companies from the supply chain.
Milkmaster was developed together with the dairy farmers. In 2015, the launch year, information about Milkmaster was provided intensively in the regions and through the executive bodies, and dialogue was sought. A regular and close exchange of views with different stakeholder groups is part of our self-conception for responsible milk production. Effective communication between those involved is therefore essential to the Milkmaster Programme.
DMK officially opened two Milkmaster Farms in 2015 to promote internal and external dialogue. These farms are open to selected target groups. The farms showcase the work that DMK dairy farmers do every day and how the Milkmaster Programme works in practical application.
The two Milkmaster Farms have professionally equipped conference rooms and offer the opportunity of Milkmaster Farm guided tours or other individual farm tours. The Milkmaster Farms’ target groups are customers, veterinary surgeons and feed advisers, NGOs and media, politicians and DMK employees.