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Sustainable Swiss milk

"swissmilk green", the production standard for sustainable Swiss milk was introduced in September 2019. The requirements of this production standard have ensured the high level for the entire Swiss milk industry with regard to animal welfare, feeding, sustainability and social criteria. Ten basic requirements have been defined and with it two additional requirements from a selection must be implemented.

 

10 basic requirements:

Free-ranging cows

Swiss dairy farmers are attentive to the well-being of their cows. Switzerland’s animal protection legislation is one of the strictest worldwide. It sets the minimum in terms of livestock rearing conditions. However, most dairy farmers comply with more stringent animal husbandry requirements. For example, they participate in the Federal animal welfare programme "RAUS" (regular open-air grazing) and "BTS" (particularly animal-friendly livestock housing), which stipulate stricter guidelines for animal farming.

For dairy cows as well, movement and social contact are important. Nearly 90% of cows already benefit from the RAUS programme and enjoy regular access to pasture or spend entire days in an exercise yard. The RAUS programme guarantees that animals have access to pasture 26 days per month in summer and 13 days per month in winter. Moreover, over half of the cows live in free-stalls that are BTS-compliant. Such stalls are characterised by daylight and littered resting areas that are accessible all day long. Dairy farmers must join at least one of the two programmes to earn the "swissmilk green" quality label for their milk.

Swiss dairy farmers are attentive to the well-being of their cows. Switzerland’s animal protection legislation is one of the strictest worldwide. It sets the minimum in terms of livestock rearing conditions. However, most dairy farmers comply with more stringent animal husbandry requirements. For example, they participate in the Federal animal welfare programme "RAUS" (regular open-air grazing) and "BTS" (particularly animal-friendly livestock housing), which stipulate stricter guidelines for animal farming.

For dairy cows as well, movement and social contact are important. Nearly 90% of cows already benefit from the RAUS programme and enjoy regular access to pasture or spend entire days in an exercise yard. The RAUS programme guarantees that animals have access to pasture 26 days per month in summer and 13 days per month in winter. Moreover, over half of the cows live in free-stalls that are BTS-compliant. Such stalls are characterised by daylight and littered resting areas that are accessible all day long. Dairy farmers must join at least one of the two programmes to earn the "swissmilk green" quality label for their milk.

Every cow has a name

In Switzerland, the social dimension inside the herd is a matter of course. Animal welfare and caring for our cows are the primary concerns for our dairy farmers. Average herd size in Switzerland is just 26 cows per farm. This allows for traditional grazing, characterised by a good ratio between the number of animals and forage area, unlike dairy farms abroad with over 1000 animals kept in a herd. A smaller number of animals also lets our dairy farmers forge closer ties with their animals. For example, in Switzerland every animal has a name, the most popular ones being Bella and Tulipe.

 

In Switzerland, the social dimension inside the herd is a matter of course. Animal welfare and caring for our cows are the primary concerns for our dairy farmers. Average herd size in Switzerland is just 26 cows per farm. This allows for traditional grazing, characterised by a good ratio between the number of animals and forage area, unlike dairy farms abroad with over 1000 animals kept in a herd. A smaller number of animals also lets our dairy farmers forge closer ties with their animals. For example, in Switzerland every animal has a name, the most popular ones being Bella and Tulipe.

 

Young calves grow stronger after over three weeks at home

A cow only gives milk if it gives birth to a calf each year. Instead of keeping all of these calves for their own offspring, milk producers sell some of them after birth to farms specialising in meat production. These calves are treated with respect. The first days after birth are decisive for the calves’ health and welfare. However, this period is also economically important: a good start in these first few weeks also has a positive impact on later life. Letting the calves stay at least 21 days at the holding of birth gives their health and welfare a boost.

A cow only gives milk if it gives birth to a calf each year. Instead of keeping all of these calves for their own offspring, milk producers sell some of them after birth to farms specialising in meat production. These calves are treated with respect. The first days after birth are decisive for the calves’ health and welfare. However, this period is also economically important: a good start in these first few weeks also has a positive impact on later life. Letting the calves stay at least 21 days at the holding of birth gives their health and welfare a boost.

Twice-daily milking

Proper milking several times daily and well-functioning dairy equipment ensure milk quality and yield, and also prevent udder diseases. Swiss cows produce an average 25 litres of milk per day. To prevent uncomfortable udder pressure, cows are milked at least twice daily.

Proper milking several times daily and well-functioning dairy equipment ensure milk quality and yield, and also prevent udder diseases. Swiss cows produce an average 25 litres of milk per day. To prevent uncomfortable udder pressure, cows are milked at least twice daily.

Strict rules for cattle shows

Livestock farming isn’t only about factors like milk yield – it also involves the outside appearance. In the industry jargon we call this the "extérieur". At cattle shows, animals are judged on their outside appearance. The legal provisions for animal welfare must also be respected at all times at such events. Farmers undertake to ensure the welfare and protection of their animals. Consequently, each participant must comply strictly with the exhibition regulations of the Federation of Swiss Cattle Breeders (ASR).

Livestock farming isn’t only about factors like milk yield – it also involves the outside appearance. In the industry jargon we call this the "extérieur". At cattle shows, animals are judged on their outside appearance. The legal provisions for animal welfare must also be respected at all times at such events. Farmers undertake to ensure the welfare and protection of their animals. Consequently, each participant must comply strictly with the exhibition regulations of the Federation of Swiss Cattle Breeders (ASR).

No pregnant cows sent for slaughter

It is essential for all livestock farmers to remain abreast of the pregnancy stage of their cows – indeed, this is a key aspect of herd management. Farmers record cows’ pregnancy status in writing on the accompanying documents, a measure which prevents pregnant cows from being sent for slaughter.

It is essential for all livestock farmers to remain abreast of the pregnancy stage of their cows – indeed, this is a key aspect of herd management. Farmers record cows’ pregnancy status in writing on the accompanying documents, a measure which prevents pregnant cows from being sent for slaughter.

Care with the use of medications

The medical care of our cows is subject to clear specifications. The milk producer ensures that the use of medications is appropriate to the situation. Critical antibiotics are only administered with the approval of the veterinarian and in a targeted way.

The use of antibiotics has declined by 50 per cent over the past ten years. Furthermore, since 2018 there has been close cooperation with the Kometian Association, whereby member farmers receive rebates for taking complementary medical advice. This avoids the use of antibiotics.

The medical care of our cows is subject to clear specifications. The milk producer ensures that the use of medications is appropriate to the situation. Critical antibiotics are only administered with the approval of the veterinarian and in a targeted way.

The use of antibiotics has declined by 50 per cent over the past ten years. Furthermore, since 2018 there has been close cooperation with the Kometian Association, whereby member farmers receive rebates for taking complementary medical advice. This avoids the use of antibiotics.

Promoting biodiversity

The agricultural environmental performance record (ÖLN) is the foundation of environmentally friendly agriculture. The requirements of the ÖLN are demanding and cover all areas of sustainable production. They include requirements in the areas of animal-friendly husbandry, fertilisation, crop rotation, ecological compensation areas and appropriate soil protection. Strict compliance with these guidelines is one of the main reasons why the Swiss dairy industry excels in international comparison, particularly in the area of animal welfare.

For a farm, respect for the ÖLN implies adopting a holistic approach. For example, the soil must be cultivated in an ecologically sound manner and covered with crops or green manure all year round. This prevents erosion and promotes water storage potential, humus formation, rooting and leads to a regulated crop rotation. There are also guidelines for fertilisation. Over-fertilisation of the soil is not permitted, also to protect water bodies. Timely and regulated fertilisation also promotes soil fertility.

The agricultural environmental performance record (ÖLN) is the foundation of environmentally friendly agriculture. The requirements of the ÖLN are demanding and cover all areas of sustainable production. They include requirements in the areas of animal-friendly husbandry, fertilisation, crop rotation, ecological compensation areas and appropriate soil protection. Strict compliance with these guidelines is one of the main reasons why the Swiss dairy industry excels in international comparison, particularly in the area of animal welfare.

For a farm, respect for the ÖLN implies adopting a holistic approach. For example, the soil must be cultivated in an ecologically sound manner and covered with crops or green manure all year round. This prevents erosion and promotes water storage potential, humus formation, rooting and leads to a regulated crop rotation. There are also guidelines for fertilisation. Over-fertilisation of the soil is not permitted, also to protect water bodies. Timely and regulated fertilisation also promotes soil fertility.

GMO-free feeding

With respect to dairy cattle feeding, the following requirements apply for the sustainability brand "swissmilk green": those who use protein-rich soy meal as feed obtain it from sustainable production.

With respect to dairy cattle feeding, the following requirements apply for the sustainability brand "swissmilk green": those who use protein-rich soy meal as feed obtain it from sustainable production.

No palm oil, no palm fat

The "swissmilk green" brand guarantees that the feeding of dairy cattle is 100% free of palm oil and palm fat.

The "swissmilk green" brand guarantees that the feeding of dairy cattle is 100% free of palm oil and palm fat.

At least 2 additional requirements 

Ten points - the basic requirements - are mandatory for attaining the "swissmilk green" industry standard. Furthermore, two of the additional requirements must be fulfilled. Milk farmers can choose additional requirements from a catalogue. The milk producer decides which to choose according to the type of farm that he/she runs.

 

  • Both animal welfare programmes fulfilled

    In complying with BTS and RAUS (Federal Animal Welfare Programmes), animal welfare attains its best score.

  • Complementary medical methods

    Animals are treated with complementary medical methods. Here there are three variants: Membership in Kometian or a similar organisation, personal training in complementary medicine or confirmation by the veterinarian that he/she practices using appropriate techniques.

  • Social security

    Great dedication goes into our agriculture and food production. Swiss milk farmers are also passionate entrepreneurs who are confronted with new economic and environmental conditions and who spend a lot of time and patience finding solutions for current and future challenges. This also requires fair remuneration for the work they do.
    The workforce, drawn from the milk producer's family, must be provided with social protection.

  • Recognised training facility

    Agricultural work requires extensive know-how. The training of apprentices is therefore an important factor. Only in this way can the comprehensive knowledge be passed on to the next generation. Within the last three years the agricultural enterprise/farm must have trained apprentices.

  • Further education

    Farm managers or employees attend at least one half-day agricultural training session every year. This ensures that our milk producers are familiar with the latest trends and scientific developments and that the know-how is integrated profitably into production.

  • Public relations on the farm

    Educating the public about agriculture is important. Children should come into contact with agriculture at a young age and learn/understand how carrots and cheese, for example, get on their plate. This is where the passing on of knowledge and values begins. Raising public awareness on the farm is therefore an important component: at least one school event with young people or children should be held every year.

Audited sustainable management system

Each milk processor has access to an audited sustainable management system, a sustainability analysis, a sustainability report or a recognised self-assessment. Environmental protection is promoted through efforts to monitor the farm’s environmental footprint. Cheese that bears the "swissmilk green" quality label is produced without GMO labs and with voluntary avoidance of additives according to the "Swiss Cheese" industry code.

Grassland

Switzerland’s grasslands offer ideal conditions for milk production: fodder is over 90% domestically sourced and is 100% free of GMOs (genetically modified organisms).

Brand stands for sustainably produced Swiss milk

The "swissmilk green" brand stands for ‘close-to nature’ and sustainable in reference to milk produced in Switzerland. The level in the Swiss dairy industry is already high by international comparison. With the "swissmilk green" production standard it should be even higher. The production standard stands for the high level of Swiss milk producers with respect to animal welfare, feeding, proximity and health, and is constantly enhanced. Milk producers who meet the production standard receive an award of 3 centimes (for dairy milk in the A-segment). With this programme, the milk sector organisation is a forerunner for all sectors of Swiss and international agriculture.