Synlait Milk expects to have 20 suppliers certified by the end of the year in its Lead With Pride programme that offers extra payments in return for meeting exacting standards for environment, animal welfare, milk quality and social responsibility.
"Part of this is showing the community that we are doing the right thing which I guess you could say is good PR, but it's a bit more than that," said Synlait milk supply manager David Williams.
"The farming community realise things have to change but it is also about highlighting the really good things that are happening on farm and rewarding people for doing that as well."
Suppliers who sign up to the farm assurance system have to meet or exceed industry best practice standards and will be independently audited by AssureQuality. So far only Oxford farmers Lance and Wendy Main have achieved certification but 35 other Synlait suppliers have started the process, including Rakaia sharemilker Jeremy Duckmanton.
"It covers the whole package of your farming operation and it probably just ensures that you're going about things the right way," said Duckmanton, 2010 Canterbury/North Otago sharemilker of the year.
"It just promotes best practice in the business as a whole. We've always had the best on-farm manuals and stuff in the cowshed and always had things in order there for the odd inspections. It's growing on that really."
To achieve certification, every farm job has to be documented and manuals written to cover everything from running irrigators and milking cows to effluent management and shed hygiene.
"When I first heard about it, the fact of going out and doing it, that is a great idea. The second thing that pops into your head is, 'how am I going to find the time to get all that written down?', but they've been really good and they've come out to my place twice and sat down to go through it," Duckmanton said.
Once certified, Duckmanton can expect an extra six cents a kilogram of milksolids - to be shared 50/50 with the farm owner. That's about $15,000 each for the 450,000kg/ms he expects from his 1000-cow herd this season.
"You do get paid slightly better for having that certain standard but that's probably not the biggest driver for me. The biggest driver is making the farm run sustainably so if I'm not here 24/7 it still runs fine and likewise backs you up for the disaster times.
"But the extra bit of remuneration probably well and truly pays us for the time you spend doing it."
Williams said following best practice usually increases farm profitability anyway and the extra payment from Synlait is icing on the cake.
"The other reason is we know there is a market for this with our customers," he said. "We operate very much a business to business model so we don't have our own brands.
"The customers we work with are competing with other people on the supermarket shelf and if we can give them something that differentiates their product, that shows leadership, then there's a value to that.
"We've got customers that are very interested in this programme from that point of view."
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