A wad of paperwork failed to deter Oxford dairy farm owners Lance and Wendy Main from becoming Synlait’s first Gold-Plus certified suppliers, in a new scheme to professionalise its milk supply base.
They were among farmers to help develop the Lead With Pride programme, unveiled to Synlait suppliers this week.

Lance said the financial incentive for becoming accredited was not their main driver, as the programme was “close to their heart” to help raise their standards and formalise their ability as top suppliers.

“We all aim to do a good job and this is another way to get recognised and upskill ourselves. For us it’s an indication we are working above the general requirements. Should things go astray elsewhere, this shows we are doing more than necessary to be compliant and it will make us employers people want to be employed with.”

The couple are in their third season of supplying Synlait from their Oxford farm of 500 cows and have supplied milk as sharemilkers.

They have yet to advertise for staff, who have come to them for work the past five years.

Lance said they might be good employers, but the scheme had allowed them to set good protocols. They had carried out performance evaluations in the past with staff and this had been locked in and helped them as employers and employees to achieve goals.

He said showing they complied with standards initially had seemed daunting, but had been reasonably straightforward and made sense as it had put safeguards in place.

“I believe it’s something, to a varying degree, the whole industry has to undertake. There has been finger pointing with the Clean Streams Accord and this is one way to show we are doing everything we can.”

Sharemilkers for 20 years, the Mains bought their 165-hectare farm several years ago, later adding 92ha, and have lifted milk production from 67,000 kilograms of milksolids to 135,000 in their first year and then to 198,000kg, and are on target for 220,000kg despite a dry summer.

The internationally recognised ISO 65 dairy farm assurance programme is split into two bands, with Gold-Plus accredited farmers receiving an extra six cents a kilogram of milksolids and Gold- Elite a 12c/kg premium.

Chief executive John Penno said the scheme was built around Synlait’s customer base at the top- end of the market.

Customers knew New Zealand farmers were good milk suppliers and expected them to do a better job with animal welfare and staff, he said.

“We have always talked about our clean, green image and the quality of our milk and our farmers. But what we are doing is putting a system around it so we have something tangible when we are working with our customers.”

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Penno said Synlait’s top suppliers were already at the Gold- Plus level and this programme would provide them the challenge they needed to supply good records, measure themselves and gain accreditation.

He said it was not enough today for farmers to say they were the best employers and environmental performers, they needed the accreditation to prove it.

Lincoln University research shows the biggest benefits will be the ongoing business improvements suppliers make to their farms, by becoming accredited.

Synlait has worked over the past three years to develop the programme and took it to farmers to find a working system.

Some overseas companies have adopted accreditation schemes, but Synlait understands not to the same level as its programme in milk quality, environmental performance, social responsibility and animal health.

– © Fairfax NZ News