Wellbeing plans offer more than compliance

A wellbeing plan helps unlock the Co-operative Difference milk payment for Fonterra suppliers and there is a close relationship between well-cared for cows and good milk production.

Imagine if you could prevent the loss of one cow, minimise the cases of lameness, and more effectively manage mastitis within your herd. Proactive management can save money and create efficiencies within the farm business.

It’s important that the practices we use on farms are aligned with the expectations of our customers, consumers and communities. Milk processors are asking for more evidence and compliance is coming from all angles but sometimes we have opportunities to harness the benefits for our own gains. If we have to do something, why not make sure we are maximising it.

The big picture

The focus for animal welfare internationally has shifted from simply aiming to reduce negative experiences, to recognising the importance of increasing positive experiences. Farmers are encouraged to develop and implement a wellbeing plan that is created with their veterinarian. 

Our local vets are full of knowledge and experience. They’re one of the most trusted professionals in a farmer’s support network and with the consumer’s heightened interest in how our food is being produced, they are an asset to help guide and support us.

Topics to cover

Wellbeing plans must cover topics under the five domains; nutrition, health, environment, behaviour, and mental state. Cows need to live what is considered a good life. And the information gathered within a wellbeing plan can guide management decisions on farm.

The current format isn’t telling farmers what to do, i.e. they aren’t insisting body condition scoring is performed on your herd. But they are asking farmers to have a discussion with their vet about body condition as a management tool. 

When paired with predicted calving dates, body condition scoring can plan a staggered dry-off, which can support feed budgeting and contribute to reproductive performance next season. Which could mean more milk the following season, more culling options from having more cows in calf, the list goes on!

​Take advantage of info

For many of the topic areas the benefits far outweigh the costs of having the discussion, or performing the task, but the choice is with you as the farmer. It’s a great opportunity to explore the herd management and how their potential could be maximised.

And reviewing plans annually provides opportunities to reflect and determine if efforts are paying off. It gives accountability - did you actually do what you said you would do? For many farms a lot of the discussion points will already be standard practice, but do we see the benefits if we’re not recording and collecting data? 

Simple template

For veterinary clinics using the WelFarm programme, they have access to a Wellbeing Plan template that meets the Co-operative Difference requirements for animals. Farmers are able to sign-up for all or part of the WelFarm programme. The full WelFarm programme goes above and beyond the minimum requirements but it can be utilised at various levels to suit you and how you wish to utilise the information with your veterinarian. And using a dedicated programme provides peace of mind knowing if Fonterra modifies their requirements in the future, WelFarm is an easy channel to ensure vets keep up to date.