Sustainable Dairying

Committed to having the best dairying environment in the world

New Zealand - Producing the highest quality milk is at the very heart of our business.

To ensure we continue improving milk quality and minimise dairying’s environmental footprint, we’ve developed Supply Fonterra – our programme of on-farm initiatives that supports our farmers and the Co-operative to help us maintain and grow a sustainable milk supply.


We are committed to having the best dairying environment in the world and the best quality milk. The two go hand in hand. 

To preserve what makes us unique today and for tomorrow’s generations we have to work to continually improve the management of our environment and the production of our milk. 

By doing so, we’ll maintain and grow a sustainable milk supply to meet the demands of our international customers and our local communities. 

The Supply Fonterra programme is a first for dairy in New Zealand and provides proactive initiatives that support our farmers and industry as a whole. Our programme sets out environmental and food safety requirements and provides support to assist our farmers to meet regulatory requirements and future-proof their farm.


Supply Fonterra programmes currently include:

  • Annual Farm Dairy and Environmental Assessment 

  • Milk Quality Support 

  • Milk Temperature Management

  • Mastitis Support

  • Animal Health & Welfare

  • Effluent Management

  • Nitrogen Management

  • Waterway Management 

  • Water Use Management


Annual Farm Dairy & Environment Assessment

Every year our farms are assessed during their annual Farm Dairy and Environmental Assessment (FDEA). This on-farm assessment ensures every farm is meeting specific milk quality, environmental and animal health and welfare standards. If improvements are needed, plans are developed with our farmers to help them achieve these within agreed timeframes.


Milk Quality Support

There is a close relationship between good animal welfare practices and the production of high quality milk. 

In New Zealand and Australia, we build on existing animal welfare legislation and work with industry bodies (Dairy NZ, Dairy Australia) to run education and continuous improvement programmes. Within New Zealand these cover the prevention of lameness and mastitis, improve reproductive health, reducing inductions and improving the body condition of cows through scoring advice and tools. 

Globally, our International Milk Quality team assess animal welfare as part of their milk quality audits in all markets outside of New Zealand where we source milk. This enables Fonterra to identify system gaps and recommend improvements to farmers. 


Milk Temperature Management

This programme is tasked with supporting farms to identify if their equipment needs upgrading or replacing to meet the milk cooling temperature standard. 


Mastitis Support

Since 2012 Fonterra has been offering a Mastitis Support Programme that provides tailored on-farm assistance to help find the causes of mastitis and reduce its occurrence.


Animal Health & Welfare

Fonterra’s commitment to Animal Welfare is based on the Five Freedoms as set by the World Organisation for Animal Health. Animals are the core of our business and their welfare and wellbeing is paramount. We are committed to ensuring dairy cattle have a good quality of life.

Fonterra staff receive communication and training in the expectations and requirements of Fonterra Group Animal Welfare and Biosecurity Policy, with particular emphasis on understanding and upholding the Five Freedoms. We also work with the industry good organisations like DairyNZ and DairyAustralia and the agricultural training organisations like Primary ITO who provide quality material for farmers and their staff who supply milk to us.

One of our key sustainability goals is to have global animal welfare standards and supporting programmes across all regions by 2020. We are working closely with global industry organisations such as the Sustainable Agriculture Initiative and the World Organisation for Animal Health to develop global animal welfare best practice standards, indicators and outcome measures. These will become the benchmark for Fonterra’s 2020 Animal Welfare standards and will incorporate measures for our on-farm performance.

Fonterra works with a wide range of organisations to ensure our policies and standards reflect international best practise:

  • Dairy New Zealand
  • Dairy Australia
  • Animal Behaviour and Welfare Consultative Committee New Zealand
  • International Dairy Federation – Standing Committees on Farm Management and Animal Health
  • AgResearch New Zealand
  • Royal New Zealand Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals
  • Sustainable Agricultural Initiative (SAI)
  • Ministry for Primary industries (MPI) with direct link to OIE
  • New Zealand Farm to processor animal welfare forum
  • New Zealand Chief Executives animal welfare forum


Early Response Programme

Fonterra is an active participant in the dairy industry animal welfare Early Response Service which supports farmers through challenging times and assists them in getting their animals and farms back on track.

If an animal welfare issue is raised with Fonterra or DairyNZ, a Fonterra Regional Food Safety Manager, along with a DairyNZ Animal Husbandry Extension Specialist, will work closely with the farmer, and MPI if necessary, to offer support and assistance.

Support includes developing a step-by-step action plan, conducting cow Body Condition Scoring, developing a feed budget, and recommending the services of Federated Farmers, Rural Support Trust and farm dairy consultants if necessary. Follow up visits will take place to ensure the action plan is being carried out.


Effluent Management

Every dairy farm is required to have effluent systems and management practices capable of 365-day compliance with regional council regulations. Farms are assessed each year during the annual Farm Dairy and Environmental Assessment to ensure they meet these standards. If required, Environmental Improvement Plans are agreed with farmers to ensure resolution of the issues identified and to future-proof systems as appropriate.


Nitrogen Management

Our Nitrogen Management Programme targets nutrient use efficiency, helping to further reduce the impact of dairying on the environment. Detailed farm data collected and provided by our farmers is used to produce farm reports showing modelled nitrogen conversion efficiency and nitrogen loss risk. These reports detail nitrogen leaching risk, nitrogen conversion efficiency and let farmers compare their performance to other farms in the region. 


Waterway Management

The Supply Fonterra Waterway Management Programme helps reduce the impact that our farms have on surface water quality. This includes standards for stock exclusion from defined waterways and stock crossings. The programme also helps farmers to identify and manage other on-farm risk areas that could contribute to a decline in water quality. The target is to achieve 100% stock exclusion from Fonterra defined waterways and to have all regular stock crossings bridged or culverted. A Fonterra defined waterway is a river, stream, drain, canal, lake or wetland that permanently contains water and is more than a metre wide and 30 centimetres deep at any time of year.

At the end of July 2015, 98 per cent (24,352 kilometres) of defined waterways on mapped farms were stock-excluded *1, up from 95 per cent reported last year. In addition, 99.4 per cent of regular water crossings have now been bridged or culverted. (Source: 2015 annual report).

*1 This includes approximately 535km of waterways and 35 stock crossing points with dispensations, primarily due to management plans achieving stock exclusion through a temporary or natural barrier. Taranaki farms are excluded from these statistics as they are covered by the Regional Council programme. 99 per cent of all other farms have been mapped.


Water Use Management

The Supply Fonterra Water Use Management Programme is designed to protect water resources by promoting responsible, effective and efficient water use on-farm. The programme is building awareness of changing water allocation rules, and will advise on water efficiency practices that will enable responsible and sustainable water management. Fonterra farmers are installing water meters to help manage and protect this valuable resource.


Sustainable Dairying: Water Accord

Our commitment to water quality is reflected in the Sustainable Dairying: Water Accord and its predecessor, the Clean Streams Accord

The Sustainable Dairying: Water Accord (SDWA) is a commitment to New Zealand to enhance the overall performance of dairy farming as it affects freshwater through continuous improvement and partnership. The Accord is a voluntary environmental initiative designed to contribute towards clean, healthy freshwater resources including streams, rivers, lakes, groundwater and wetlands in dairying areas.

The Accord has targets focused on effluent management, nutrient management, water use efficiency and riparian management (stock exclusion and riparian planting). Reporting against the targets in the Accord commenced in 2014.

The SDWA replaced the “Dairying and Clean Streams Accord” (DCSA) which Fonterra signed in May 2003 and ended in December 2013.

Supply Fonterra will continue to align its environmental programmes to the Accord’s requirements to support our farmers in meeting these commitments.

> Sustainable Dairy Water Accord


Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Our goal builds on our leadership as the first major dairy producer to provide a carbon footprint for our New Zealand origin productions. It measures the total quantity of greenhouse gases released to the atmosphere over the life cycle associated with the production of the measured dairy ingredients or products. We also were significant contributors to the development of a globally accepted methodology of accounting greenhouse emissions in dairy.


New Zealand-sourced milk

The 2013/14 full lifecycle estimate of greenhouse gas emissions for New Zealand milk to the farm gate was 0.90 kilograms of carbon dioxide equivalent per kilogram of fat-and-protein corrected milk (kg CO2-e/kg FPCM), or 11.68 kilograms of carbon dioxide equivalent per kilogram of milk solids (kg CO2-e/kg MS). This was a four per cent decrease from the 2012/13 season and at 0.62kg CO2-e/kg FPCM, was the lowest animal emissions intensity in 10 years. The reduction was primarily associated with increased productivity on farm, including increased milk production per cow, but also due to a small decrease in the emissions associated with nitrogen fertiliser use, supplementary feeds and land use change.

Greenhouse gas emission trends for NZ Dairy production.