About 80% of the milk produced in Finland comes under the dairy company’s sustainability bonus program.
Since 2021, the farmers could gain an extra two cents per milk liter for animal welfare-related actions as part of that scheme; now they can earn an additional cent by undertaking climate smart farming practices.
The revised scheme, said Valio, will see it provide its dairy farmer owners nearly €50m annually in sustainability-linked payments.
“For example, the average sized farm of 45 cows currently receives a sustainability bonus of €8,000 (US$8,709). With the program update, it is possible to increase the bonus to €12,000.”
Following on from its animal welfare focused program, Valio now wants to raise the bar, to reduce the climate impacts of milk production. The new actions included in the sustainability bonus program are voluntary; each farmer can choose the ones that are the right fit for their farm. "Animal welfare continues to be an important theme,” said Ilkka Pohjamo, senior vice president, primary production, Valio
Farmers are being encouraged to increase grazing time for their cows and to provider greater year-round outdoor access for the animals; they are being asked to plant biodiversity zones that benefit pollinators, to practice carbon farming methods, to cultivate multi-species grasses and to use the Carbo Farm calculator to report the carbon footprint of the milk they produce, to complete carbon farming training and to use carbon farming practices in the farm’s production of feed.
“Some 1,900 farms are already using the Valio Carbo carbon footprint calculator and about 1,000 farms – 25% of all Valio dairy farms - have taken part in carbon farming training. Carbon farming methods are already being used on nearly 85,000 hectares,” reported Pohjamo.
Milk production impacts biodiversity in both negative and positive ways. For example, actions such as clearing fields in areas of high natural value and cultivating peatlands reduces biodiversity, noted the milk processor. “Grazing cows, on the other hand, enhances biodiversity because cattle manure attracts insects, which in turn attract birds. The positive biodiversity impacts of grasslands for grazing can be enhanced by maximizing the rotation period of grasses and by using multi-species grasses. Grazing can be used to control invasive alien species that adversely impact the diversity of native species.”
Regenerative farming methods and perennial, multi-species grassland cultivation can also enhance biodiversity, improve soil condition, and increase carbon sequestration, thus benefiting both the environment and the farmer, according to the dairy company, which is owned by around 3,700 Finnish dairy farms through cooperatives.
“Valio has developed a multi-species grass seed mixture that improves carbon sequestration and biodiversity, as well as a seed mixture that attracts pollinators and can be used to grow biodiversity strips along the borders of fields, for instance,” added Pohjamo.