The following five steps comprise the road map towards a system change in the dairy chain resulting in high quality residue-free milk and milk products:
Improved animal- and farm management within ecosystem boundaries:
Improving animal health and wellbeing in dairy farming includes aspects of breeding, feeding, manure management, soil fertilization and (functional) biodiversity enhancement. The Netherlands has an important experience and history on farm management to share in these areas and have developed good monitoring protocols and tools. On the topic of dairy farming within ecosystem boundaries, new initiatives and tools are emerging which can be shared with other countries.
Appropriate use of local breeds in breeding strategies:
Strategic breeding programs, including strategic use of local breeds in crossbreeding programs and the conservation of local breeds, is an important component of the program. Community based breeding is one of the methodologies for this, and the Ugandan and Ethiopian partners have rich experience in this area. Also within the Netherlands ‘Crossbreeding back’ the Holstein-Frisian dairy cows with dual-purpose cattle breeds is an increasingly important strategy for increasing animal health and life expectancy. The improvement of local animal breeds throughout the world, often kept by remote and poor communities, represent a large and still unexplored potential in the strategy for sustainable dairy farming practices.
Use of medicinal plants and other ethnoveterinary practices:
Medicinal plants and other natural products are a major resource for preventive, health promotion and curative purposes in dairy farming. India has an especially rich experience and history of documenting, validating, promoting and legitimizing traditional ethno-veterinary practices in the country, and this experience will be shared across the international partners. An additional aspect is to focus on natural feeds. Natural grasslands that include herbal products are increasingly seen as an important way to reduce antibiotic use in dairy farming as well as improve soil fertility and closing nutrient cycles. It is a small but gradually growing field in the Netherlands – and still prevalent in countries like India.
Milk quality control systems:
In most poor countries of the world the milk quality control is limited to fat and protein content, and adulteration. Effective control of residues in fresh milk is seldom in place – while it is clear that residues in milk and milk products are increasingly common. Moreover, milk quality control is not adapted to smallholder dairy systems, currently being too expensive for small quantities of milk. At the same time the Netherlands has developed expertise in milk quality control systems, which the project aims to adapt to the conditions of smallholder dairy production.
Extra payment for residue-free milk and sustainable enterprise development:
The 5th step within the road map is to reward dairy farmers with surplus payment for high quality and residue-free milk. This is to be combined with new market options for specialised services, For example medicinal plant enterprises will form a key component in the program for providing accessible and affordable solutions at local level while assuring equitable benefit sharing mechanisms across the value chain.