Holistic thinking is key to sustainable dairy farming

We have talked with Nicolas Tillet, Product Area Manager Animal Welfare & Traffic Solutions, to share some insights with us how our Product Management & Development organisation work to make sustainable food production possible and increase cow longevity.

Sustainability on farms is a major topic and we as a solutions provider can be part of the change that is needed to meet the UN SDGs from Agenda 2030. To achieve this, Product Management & Development (PMD) works across departments and with different product owners to apply a holistic thinking when designing new products and installations. Instead of a silo thinking, where each product is developed independently, the holistic strategy makes sure all products that are designed as a complete system can bring out the best from each other.

“A good example of that design process is when we develop new floor materials in the walking aisle for the cows. To start with, most of the rubber mats we produce are made from recycled rubber. We also design the flooring based on the manure scrapers so they are as efficient as they can be. Having good walking surfaces free from manure and urine reduces the risk of lame cows and other hoof related problems which can lead to the need of antibiotics – and the cow’s milk is then discarded,” says Nicolas. Each new product is also developed based on findings in the latest research for that specific topic and receive guidance from industry experts. “Having good animal welfare in the herd is essential for many reasons. Healthy cows produce more and high-quality milk, but it also has an economic effect for the farmer as healthy cows require less medical attention, thus reducing that cost,” says Nicolas.  

Nicolas Tillet, Product Area Manager Animal Welfare & Traffic Solutions

DeLaval has set up design guidelines and the aim is to benchmark each new product to the previous model in terms of sustainability improvements and performance. The three main design aspects for PMD revolve around efficiency, durability and sustainability. But designing a sustainable product it is not as easy as it might seem. ”It is always a balance between a great idea and cost. To realise that idea might require a double in cost in materials which then doubles the price for customers. If the product is too expensive, we won’t sell it. So, it is a challenge to find the perfect balance between affordable solutions and sustainability. But it is a fun challenge and I look forward to improving our products even more,” Nicolas says. 

​​​​​​​Holistic perspective

DeLaval’s strength lies in the capability to design the whole barn around the needs for the cows together with the products. But it is not only the products that matter – knowledge and advisory is key for a sustainable farm solution. As everything hangs together, not designing and optimising for products to work in unison can have a negative impact on the animal welfare. Everything follows a three-step process of considering planning, product and maintenance.  If all these are accounted for, the better the optimisation of the product throughout its life cycle. This optimisation is key to both great animal welfare and in extension increased cow longevity within the herd.

To extend the scope of the environmental impact of the designed products, PMD also factors in the transportation. “When we talk about transportation, I can give a clear example where a new design in packaging and products makes it more efficient. The latest version of the DeLaval Swinging Cow Brush™ SCB and its packaging resulted in that we now fit 144 complete pieces instead of 108 in the trucks,” says Nicolas.

Audits to meet standards

Furthermore, to ensure all our suppliers meet the standards DeLaval requires, they go through an audit process and part of that process in sustainability. This auditing process has become more thorough in the last 10 years and some of our long-time business partners has been re-audited in areas such as efficiency, quality, and sustainability to mention a few, to conclude they still are up to the standards.

Having a holistic thinking when planning, developing and installing new products on farms is the key driver to ensure a more sustainable dairy farming now and for many years to come. Stay tuned for more insights on how we at DeLaval are driving this change!