AgriLand caught up with Bord Bia to discuss its new National Sustainable Dairy and Quality Assurance Scheme, which is set to rollout in the coming weeks. 

What is it?
The Irish dairy industry has committed to providing an annual fund of €1m for a dedicated trade communications programme to promote the credentials of the Irish dairy sector as a source of high-quality, sustainably produced dairy products.

This programme will be managed by Bord Bia on behalf of the industry to secure a market position in both developed and emerging markets that can optimise returns to the sector following the end of dairy quotas.

The fundamental platform for the programme is the implementation of a National Sustainable Dairy and Quality Assurance Scheme (SDQAS) with international accreditation.

In addition to containing the necessary criteria to produce quality milk, the scheme has also been designed to assess and record data to demonstrate the sustainability of Irish dairying in a systematic way at individual farm level.

Who is it for?
The scheme is designed to benefit the dairy industry, from the farmer to the customer. It will provide the necessary proof to customers of dairy products that milk has been produced under both Sustainability and Quality Assurance criteria.

At farm level?
At farm level, sustainability involves minimising the amount of resources (for example electricity, feed, water and so on) used to produce a kg of milk solids, however implementing measures that enhance the environmental performance of a farm will also typically deliver economic benefits through lower costs of production.

At a broader industry level the expected benefits from the roll out of this scheme include:

• Access to markets that demand on farm certification
• Capability to benchmark Irish milk production internationally
• Assurance for customers regarding sustainable production of quality milk
• Ability to demonstrate the commitment of Irish dairy farms to sustainable farming practices.

When is it being launched?
It will be launched in December 2013 and roll out will commence.

The cost?
The costs are still under review and yet to be finalised.

Why is it being introduced, its aims?
Sustainability continues to grow in importance as a strategic business issue among leading customers for dairy products globally with most leading multinational customers (including Unilever, Nestle, Danone and Kraft) having set out long-term targets to enhance the sustainability of their supply chain.

This presents considerable opportunities for those suppliers who proactively develop sustainability initiatives to develop stronger business relationships with them.  These customers will be critical to the Irish dairy sector as it seeks to develop consistent high-value outlets for the increased volumes anticipated in the period from 2015.

With such a scheme in place, Ireland would be the only country systematically measuring and improving its environmental performance at a national scale.

What are the objectives of the scheme?

  • To demonstrate to customers of dairy products that milk is produced sustainably under an accredited scheme
  • To provide a uniform mechanism for recording and monitoring
  • To set out the criteria for best practice in Irish dairy farming


How it will work?
The scheme is open to all milk producers with a valid herd registration, supplying milk processors in the Republic of Ireland. 

To apply for membership, the producer will complete a short application form that can be returned directly to Bord Bia or via the milk purchaser.
Bord Bia will process the application and then assign the farm to an auditor.

In advance of a visit by the auditor, the producer will receive an information pack. A farm visit will be conducted by an independent auditor on every member’s farm at 18-month intervals at a time and day that suits the farmer.

The purpose of the visit is to audit the farm against the quality assurance criteria and to collect data regarding the sustainability of the farm.

As all the current requirements in the dairy hygiene regulations are included in the SDQAS standard, this will remove the need for a separate inspection by the milk purchaser.

Image cow on grass. Photo O'Gorman Photography