Bord Bia launched its national Sustainable Dairy Assurance Scheme (SDAS) this afternoon. Here is a summary breakdown of how it will work.

How much will it cost the producer to join the Sustainable Diary Assurance Scheme?
The cost of the audit and associated costs of certification will be met by the milk producer. Bord Bia stress that there will be no cost to the farmer.

Is this a voluntary scheme?
All Bord Bia Quality Assurance Schemes are voluntary schemes, however an individual milk purchaser may require all of its suppliers to become members.

I would like to join the SDAS and I am already a member of the Beef and Lamb Quality Assurance Scheme, will I now get two audits?
The same auditor will conduct both audits on the same day. The SDAS will be conducted first and the small number of additional BLQAS specific questions will then be covered. Where questions are relevant to both schemes, they will be addressed once. The certification period for both schemes will be the same.

Some meat factories require cull cows to come from QA farms, will the SDAS provide the required QA for cull cows?
Where QA is required for cull cows and all other animals going for meat production, it is membership of the BLQAS that is required.

What happens to my milk if I fail the audit?
The producer will be given ample opportunity to close out non-compliance. However, where a producer does not address these within the certification period, the herd will fall out of certification. Each milk producer will have its own policy regarding the collection of milk from farms that lose certification.

What will the auditor look for during the farm visit?
The auditor will check that the farm conforms to good agricultural practices, meeting legal and market requirements in a number of key areas including milk quality, animal welfare, environmental protection and farm safety.

In addition, the auditor will record farm performance measures that will allow the carbon footprint of the farm to be calculated. Water and energy use and biodiversity measures will also be noted.

A farm inspection will be conducted by an independent auditor on every member’s farm at 18-month intervals. According to Bord Bia, the auditor will contact the producer to arrange the farm visit at a time and day that suits the farmer. It is expected that the farm visit will take place outside of milking times and that extremely busy periods of the year such as calving will be avoided.

The audit will be conducted on a handheld electronic device. In order to reduce the time required for farm audits, the producer needs to prepare for the audits, the producer needs to prepare for the audit, particularly with regards to the availability of farm records.

The audit

First audit/pre-assessment
After application, the participant will be offered a certification audit. Where it is apparent early in the audit that the herd is not fully prepared for the audit, the Bord Bia auditor will advise that the audit can contuined on a pre-assessment ‘NCT’ basis with the farmer’s permission.

There are 170 criteria in total, in which seven are critical and 163 are general criteria. For a farm to be eligible for certification, it must have full compliance with all critical criteria and obtain a score of 60 per cent or greater in the general criteria.

Addressing non-compliance
Where a critical non-compliance is identified during an audit, the producer is advised at the audit and milk purchaser is advised immediately. A response must be recorded on Bord Bia’s database within 48 hours of the completion of the audit setting out the corrective action proposed.

Where the overall score is 60 per cent or less, the major non-compliance must be closed out in the period as agreed between the purchaser and the auditor, maximum of two months.

Where minor non-compliances are identified, the producer must give an undertaking to address these issues prior to the next audit.

Milk purchaser link-in 

In order to minimise the time required for the Bord Bia farm visit, Bord Bia intends to require the milk purchaser to provide the following information with consent of the her owner:

Milk sales volume per month for the previous 12 months
Fat, protein and lactose %
Milk collection temperature data
Herd health certification details
Water analysis (where applicable and where relevant)
Milking equipment servicing details

ICBF link-up

Bord Bia has reached an agreement with the Irish Cattle Breeding Federation to obtain specific herd information with the consent of each herd owner. This includes the following farm performance information.

Number and breeds of dairy cows
Number of calves registered
Calving rate
Average calling interval
Age at first calving
Replacement rates
Average EBI of cows and replacements
Average milk yields
Average lactation length

Department of Agriculture link-in

A full livestock profile for each herd will be obtained from the animal identification and movements database (AIMS). This aims to provide a complete picture of numbers in different animal categories and also of births, deaths and movements of animals in and out of the herd over the course of the previous year.

Producer criteria report to follow