Fertilizing is only permitted on cultivated land and in accordance with an agri-environmental fertilization plan (AEFP) (where required). The AEFP must contain all of the mandatory application information (e.g. fertilizer amounts, spreading modes and periods).
All operators of liquid manure raising sites and operators of solid manure raisings sites whose annual phosphorus production is greater than 1,600 kg and solid manure raising sites of over 15 ha must carry out an annual phosphorus report by determining the herd’s total annual production and adding it to the total volume of fertilizer that is applied.
Fertilizers may only be applied from April 1 to October 1.
However, fertilizers may be applied after October 1 on soil that is not frozen or snow covered if the agrologist who set out the agri-environmental fertilization plan determined another period of restriction. In addition, if the fertilizer is manure from livestock, the proportion of the waste must be lower than 35% the annual volume produced by the raising site.
Waste with liquid manure management must be spread with low-ramp or low-trajectory broadcast equipment with an exit point for liquid manure at a maximum height of 1 m above the ground. It must project manure over a distance of no more than 2 m to reach the ground.
The port is a vertical pipe with an inside diameter of at least 40 cm near the storage facilities. The water from the drains installed along the outside perimeter at or below the floor level of the facilities runs through the port, making it possible to sample the water and ensure the watertightness of the facilities.
Measures to prevent surface water contamination by piles near buildings
Contaminated water from piles must not reach the surface water. In addition, the runoff upstream of piles must be intercepted. Consult an agrologist to ensure that piles do not contaminate surface water.
The steeper and longer the slope of a field, the greater the risk of erosion. Longer slopes lead to more runoff and greater erosion. Merging smaller fields to create a larger area often lengthens slopes. Because the water flow is faster, sediment transport increases and the risks of erosion and scouring rise.
Differences from one field to the next can help determine potential land degradation problems that may be more or less visible on the surface, including compaction, inadequate drainage, degraded soil structure, low rates of organic matter, acidity, deficient soil fertility and chemical imbalance.
Field areas that retain water over long periods and affect vegetation growth may be linked to soil compaction by machinery, inadequate water drainage due to inadequate surface levelling or clogged drains, loss of soil structure due to a lack of organic matter, over tillage or groundwater resurgence.
Measures to prevent water from the yard from reaching the surface water
Contaminated water from the pile must not reach the surface water. In addition, the upstream runoff from the pile must be intercepted. An operation that is not equipped with watertight livestock waste storage facilities must implement measures to ensure that contaminated water from the pile does not reach the surface water. Consult an agrologist to ensure that the pile does not contaminate surface water.
Windbreaks growing in and around fields provide several benefits: stabilization for watercourse banks, shelter for wildlife, pesticide drift reduction, landscape enhancement, odour reduction when spreading farm waste, shade for herds, off-farm income source, etc. They also serve to protect crops and soil from the wind. When effectively grown, they create an area of relative calm that extends at least 10 times higher than the windbreak itself. In the area, a warmer, less stressful microclimate for crops can lead to better yields of at least 10% depending on the crop species. Slowing the wind also reduces wind erosion impacts, especially when the crops leave the soil bare or partially bare.
Water erosion, surplus fertilizer leaching through drains and contaminated runoff from waste storage facilities can lead to algae growth. Other signs of pollution include high turbidity, brownish water, dead fish and sandbanks.
Within an area of immediate protection that is 30 m from a category 1 or 2 water withdrawal site or 3 m from category 3 withdrawal site, all activities presenting a risk of water contamination are prohibited, unless they are related to the operation, maintenance, rebuilding or replacement of the water withdrawal facility and its accessory equipment.
Identifying wells prevents the accidental contamination of drinking water sources and facilitates and increases the safety of fieldwork. There are two ways to identify wells:
when developing the farm plan (as part of the AEFP), indicate the location of the wells and their areas of protection and advise the farm operator or those responsible for input application (manure and minerals, pesticides, fertilizer residuals)
Measures to prevent surface contamination in wells
A well must be equipped with a secure cover that is resistant to the weather, contaminants and vermin. If the facility is exposed to immersion risks, the cover must also resist water infiltration. The soil around the facility must prevent water pooling and runoff towards the facility over a distance of 1 m around the facility. For more information, see the Water Withdrawal and Protection Regulation.
It is prohibited to apply pesticides for agricultural purposes:
less than 3 m from a watercourse, body of water or ditch where the total flow area (average width multiplied by average height) of the part of the watercourse or ditch is greater than 2 m2; the relative distance from a ditch is measures from its edgeline;
less than 1 m from a watercourse, including an intermittent watercourse, or a ditch with a total flow area of 2 m2 or less for the part of the watercourse or ditch; the relative distance from a watercourse is measured from the natural high-water mark of the watercourse as defined in the policy referred to in the second paragraph of section 1 of the Pesticides Management Code and the relative distance from a ditch is measured from its edgeline.
Follow-up measures include activities to ensure plant health such as testing, mixing and applying and the determination of buffer strips. Operators must ensure that the application is carried out in compliance with government regulations and according to the recommendations of an external agrologist (when applicable).
Pesticide application early in the morning or late in the day
Pesticides should be applied early in the morning or late in the day to prevent heat stress and reduce risks for pollinizers, which are less active during these periods. In addition, pesticides should not be applied when winds are over 13 km/hour to prevent pesticide drift.
Resetting a sprayer involves a series of checks and adjustments to regulate the amount of product applied per surface unit and ensure consistent application. Sprayers should be reset at least once a year, ideally at the start of the production season. The settings should be checked when installing a new nozzle and when the volume of mix per hectare or field speed is changed.
The proper equipment and a cab-forward tractor help protect against certain harmful pesticides. Suggested protective equipment includes rubber gloves, breathing masks, rubber boots, protective clothing and goggles.
Triple or high-pressure rinsing of pesticide containers
All empty pesticide containers must be carefully drained and rinsed using a triple-rinsing or high-pressure system. Once they are rinsed, the containers must be crushed or punctured and rendered unusable (unless they are to be returned to the manufacturer) to ensure that they are not used for other purposes. The empty containers must be kept in a safe location until they are eliminated. They must never be burned or buried and should be returned to the retailer to be recycled.
After applying a pesticide, rinse the sprayer to reduce the sources of point pollution and the risks of phytotoxicity during the next application and extend the service life of the spraying equipment. The sprayer should be rinsed to sufficiently reduce the concentration of the active substances contained in the dead volume of the equipment after spraying. So as not to contaminate the yard with pesticide residue, the equipment must be rinsed in the field where the pesticide was applied. It is recommended that the equipment be rinsed over an area that has already been sprayed and had time to dry. A tank with clear water is required to rinse equipment in the field. As a general rule, the tank should total approximately 10% of the volume of the main tank. The equipment should be washed after it is rinsed.
Excess spray mix is the amount of pesticide that has not been applied. The excess mix should not be disposed of in the same way as the spraying equipment rising water (i.e. on the sprayed field). There are three ways to reduce the risks associated with excess mixes: avoid surpluses by calculating the amount of spray required and adopting best practices (e.g. sprayer settings), recycle the surpluses by applying the excess spray mix on areas that have not been treated and which require the same treatment and account for this treatment when spraying the next time and call upon specialized services to eliminate the excess spray mix (consult your regional MDDELCC office).
Certificate of qualification for the use of pesticides
In order to apply pesticides, operators (or their employees) must be certified by the MDDELCC or supervised by a certified individual. Applicants must pass a test that is prescribed or recognized by the government to obtain their certification. Optional training sessions are provided to acquire the knowledge required to pass the certification test.
Waiting period before harvesting or working in a field where pesticides have been applied
The waiting period before harvesting is always indicated on product labels. It is important to read the labels to avoid contact with the pesticides. Employees who must apply pesticides to crops may be very exposed to the products. Compliance with the waiting period between the time of application and the return to work in a field that has been sprayed minimizes the risks of dermal exposure to pesticides. The waiting period is referred to as the re-entry interval and may be indicated on the product label. The waiting periods are generally between 12 and 48 hours but may be longer depending on the toxicity of the product and the different crops. When there is no waiting period indicated on the label, it is best to comply with the provisional periods set out by the Institut national de santé publique du Quebec (INSPQ).
Pesticides should always be stored in a designated area. The storage area must always be locked, and there should be hazardous materials signs. The containment system may be a floor, platform or watertight basin to contain and allow the complete recovery of any pesticide leak or spillage.
The greatest benefit to a good crop rotation is increased yields. A well-planned crop rotation will help with insect and disease control and aid in maintaining and improving soil structure and organic matter levels. Using a variety of crops can reduce weed pressures, spread the workload and protect against soil erosion.
The optimal rotation depends on factors including available moisture and nutrients, disease and weed levels, herbicide use records, equipment availability, commodity prices and ability and desire to accept risk. The optimal rotation can vary from field to field for the same farm and from year to year for the same field.
Soil compaction can impair water infiltration into soil, crop emergence, root penetration and crop nutrient and water uptake, all of which result in depressed crop yield. Ideally, farmers should design their soil management and cropping practices to ensure the prevention of soil compaction. Here are some examples of techniques that could be considered:
correct tire inflation and/or tracks
use of dual tractor tires
addition of a deep tap rooted crop to your rotation (e.g. alfalfa)
Soil erosion can induce significant economic and agronomic losses for your farm. The adoption of various soil conservation measures to reduce soil erosion can therefore be profitable. These include tillage and cropping practices, as well as land management practices, which directly affect soil erosion. Windbreaks, buffer strips and grassed waterways are other examples of practices that could contribute to reducing erosion. Cover/companion cropping in annual crops and including perennial crops in the rotation are also means to reduce vulnerability to erosion by increasing the period when soil is covered with vegetation. No-till contributes to soil stabilization and protection by leaving crop residues at the soil surface. A combination of approaches or more extreme measures may also be considered (e.g. contour plowing, strip-cropping or terracing).
Soil organic matter and the soil organisms that live on it are critical to many soil processes since they influence several of the physical, chemical and biological properties of soil. Building soil organic matter may be the most important thing you can do to enhance long-term soil performance. More specifically, it provides benefits to soil health by:
delivering 90% to 95% of nitrogen in unfertilized soils (nitrogen is the key nutrient and controlling factor for plant growth)
improving soil structure by increasing the aggregation of soil particles (promotes aeration, infiltration and percolation)
increasing plant available water or water available to plants in-between field capacity (water remaining in the soil after saturated soil has drained) and permanent wilting point (when plants wilt but cannot recover despite the addition of water)
Using plant cover crops, reducing tillage and adding organic matter inputs can help sustain soil life and increase organic matter content. Monitoring organic matter and keeping records will allow you to measure the effects of your practices and manage your soil more efficiently.
Conservation tillage is any method of soil cultivation that leaves the previous year's crop residue (e.g. corn stalks or wheat stubble) on fields before and after planting the next crop to reduce soil erosion and runoff. To provide these conservation benefits, at least 30% of the soil surface must be covered with residue after planting the next crop. Some conservation tillage methods forego traditional tillage entirely and leave 70% residue or more.
The benefits of conservation tillage include:
reduction of soil erosion by as much as 60%-90%, depending on the conservation tillage method
conservation of water by reducing evaporation at the soil surface
reduction of compaction potential due to reduced traffic on fields
savings in time and money (lower fuel, labour, tractor use and machinery maintenance costs)
optimization of soil moisture, enhancing crop growth in dry periods or on drought-stricken soils
A nutrient management plan is a farm document that determines an appropriate application rate for the land base and application standards. Nutrient management planning is a beneficial management practice that aims to optimize crop yield and quality, minimize fertilizer input costs and protect soil and water. The principles are simple and include:
applying fertilizer only to make up the difference between what is in the soil and what is required to achieve the target yield (also ensuring cost-effectiveness for the producer)
ensuring that the added nutrient is available to the crop
In other words, you should always apply the right amount of the right product in the right place at the right time (4R).
Dairy farms should avoid the application of manure on frozen, snow-covered or saturated soils. There is no agronomic value to applying manure on frozen, snow-covered or saturated soils and the potential for surface water contamination increases significantly because the soil cannot absorb the manure. Field work on very wet soils can also lead to soil compaction and ruts in the field. Applying manure in the spring rather than the fall could lead to a 10% reduction in direct and indirect N2O emissions.
Soil tests can help determine the status of plant available nutrients to develop fertilizer recommendations to achieve optimum crop production. Soils should be analyzed at least every five years and more frequently (every two to three years), if possible. All fields should be sampled and fields with widely varying soil or topographical conditions should be divided into sections for sampling. Certain provincial regulations related to nutrient management prescribe minimum requirements for analyses related to nutrient management plans.
Manure analysis is necessary because the amounts of nutrients contained in manure vary from farm to farm (especially the phosphorus, potash and nutrient components). The type ration, bedding, added liquids and storage system all affect the final nutrient analysis. By using manure tests to determine nutrient content, you will be able to apply manure at agronomically-beneficial rates and minimize the purchase of commercial fertilizer. Most provincial agriculture departments and nutrient management specialists can provide guidelines for accurate manure sampling.
An integrated pest management (IPM) strategy combines all available tools to reduce pest populations to an acceptable level as cost-effectively and ecologically as possible. These tools include cultural, mechanical, biological and chemical pest control measures and regular pest monitoring to prevent, measure, anticipate and avoid or reduce agrochemical use on your farm. Adopting an IPM is an environmentally-friendly and cost-effective solution to control pest.
The calibration of pesticide equipment ensures that the correct amount of pesticide is applied. If too little is applied, you may not control the targeted pests. If too much is applied, your chemical costs increase, you may be in violation of the law and there may be negative effects on humans, livestock and the environment.
The best way to eliminate any environmental risk associated with pesticide storage is to avoid storing pesticides on the farm. If you cannot use the pesticides within a reasonable time, make storage arrangements with your supplier or minimize the volumes you have by sharing the extra pesticides with your neighbours.
If you must store pesticides, you should:
store minimal amounts of product (storage time should not exceed the growing season)
use secondary containment made of an impermeable material to contain possible leaks
ensure that all original containers retain the manufacturer labels and all secondary containers are properly labelled (contents and date)
consult the label for specific storage instructions
do not store pesticides with or near food, feed, seed, drinking water, protective equipment or emergency response equipment
return unopened or non-compromised product to the dealer for a refund
Application thresholds can maintain or improve crop quality and reduce the frequency of pesticide application. Less frequent applications help maintain pesticide efficacy by curbing pesticide resistance. They also reduce disruptions to practices that occur during application and re-entry intervals. In addition, fewer applications may improve plant growth and quality by minimizing phytotoxicity. Finally, less frequent applications increase profits by reducing pesticide purchasing, application labour and regulatory compliance costs.
A well-designed manure storage system is an asset to any livestock enterprise. Manure should be stored in a structure that will retain nutrients for application during crop growth. A poor management system leads to the untimely application of manure to land that could potentially harm the environment. Your manure storage facilities should therefore account for the:
requirements of the Canadian Farm Building Code
location of the structure in relation to other buildings on the farm
amount of manure generated by all of the livestock on the farm and projected increases in the near future
minimum period of storage required for the farm
amount of milking centre wash water, rainwater and other wastewater stored
safety features to protect livestock, farm workers and children
All farms should have a preventative maintenance plan for manure structures. The review should be carried out at least once a year. The maintenance plan may include the examination of the concrete tanks for cracks, fence and gate conditions and functionality and, in case of liquid manure, the inspection of inlet pipes and the concrete around them, valves and transfer pipes, etc. If any problems with the manure storage structure are detected, hire a specialist to check and correct the problem. One of the best times to conduct preventative maintenance on a manure storage structure is when the structure is empty.
Covered storage is an effective way to minimize odours. Storage covers reduce occasional manure agitation caused by wind and rain and the movement of malodorous air from storage areas to neighbouring residences.
Covers may also be used to keep precipitation out, ensure safe operations and reduce manure hauling costs. Covers can also help reduce methane emissions from storage. For instance, applying straw cover could reduce CH4 emissions during storage by up to 15%.
Contaminated water from the waste pile must not enter surface water, and runoff water upstream from the pile must be intercepted. An agronomist can help you assess the waste pile to prevent surface water contamination.
Federal and provincial regulations require that pesticides be disposed of in accordance with the manufacturer label. However, regulations in certain provinces include additional requirements that should be followed, such as specific instructions or prohibitions on container disposal. In general, empty containers are to be triple rinsed or pressure rinsed prior to disposal. Additional best practices include:
emptying liquid rinse from containers into the sprayer
damaging empty containers to prevent re-use
returning unopened or leftover product to the dealer
Storing pesticides should be avoided whenever possible to minimize the on-farm safety considerations associated with storage.
In order to reduce the impacts of an emergency on the farm involving employees, family members, the environment or neighbours, farms should prepare an emergency response plan that includes the following (at minimum):
a map of hazards and emergency equipment that has been communicated to the local fire department
a list of the emergency responders to be contacted in an emergency
a list of farm contacts (i.e. farm owners and employees)
written directions to the farm for emergency responders
procedures to follow in the event of an emergency
Also, farmers should make sure that clean-up equipment is readily available.
Implement practices to reduce, reuse or recycle farm waste whenever appropriate and practical. For instance, electronic devices in good working order may be donated to charitable organizations or schools. In the case of non-reusable products containing hazardous materials, call upon the services of qualified businesses to dispose of the materials properly.
Before choosing a disposal method, first determine what is legally allowed at your farm, since regulations differ across provinces and municipalities. The cause of death, height of water table, proximity to open water or groundwater, topography of the farm, soil type, prevailing wind direction, population density, relationships with neighbours, time, effort and advanced preparation required will all influence disposal.
Lighting significantly influences dairy production. A well designed, energy efficient lighting system can mean more light, better livestock performance and lower energy costs. For instance, replacing older lamps with new energy-efficient lamps will reduce energy consumption and often improve lighting quality.
An energy audit helps to fully understand how energy is being used on your farm and identifies how the operation could be more energy efficient. With the findings of the audit, you can begin to reduce operating costs and improve performance.
Without an energy audit, you may never know where the problem areas are. Even though your farm is running well, performing an audit could help you achieve even greater efficiency while reaching or even exceeding your business goals.
Adopting new technologies or upgrading older equipment provides many opportunities to reduce energy use and save money. For instance, milking equipment such as milk pre-coolers and vacuum pumps and scroll compressors can result in 30–50% savings. Maintaining, cleaning or using energy-efficient ventilation systems can result in 15–50% savings, and using energy-efficient lighting systems can result in 15–75% savings.
If a well is not constructed or maintained properly, or if a contaminant is spilled in the capture zone of a well, the quality of the water supply could be at risk. Bacteria, pesticide, fuel, fertilizer or other contaminants may get into the groundwater and make it unfit for human or farm use. If groundwater becomes contaminated, it can affect the health of your family and livestock. It may also affect the quality of the groundwater supplying other wells or lakes and streams in the area. Your neighbours and community could all be affected. It’s a lot easier and cheaper to prevent contamination than to clean it up.
To properly manage wells and groundwater, you should:
identify all the wells on your property and including them in your farm plan
divert all surface water away from wells
maintain a distance between the permanent chemical mixing/loading area and the nearest surface water of at least the area prescribed by regulations
maintain a distance from the manure storage or outdoor livestock yard to the nearest surface water of at least the area prescribed by regulations
Letting cattle access streams can lead to reduced water quality and stream bank erosion. It is strongly recommended that farmers use fences around watercourses to keep animals away. There are many options when fencing is not feasible. To manage access to watercourses, you should:
use alternative watering systems, such as nose pumps or solar pumps, in a location that will divert animal traffic away from watercourses
provide salt and shade for cattle in a location that will divert animal traffic away from watercourses
Silage quality is an important consideration and nearly every dairy farm in Canada stores silage. There are many silage storage options: tower silos, bunker silos or bags, pit silos, wrapping bales in plastic, etc. When stored properly, the silage preserves its quality and there is little risk to the environment. Silo leakage can impact the quality of the silage when valuable nutrients are lost and may also contaminate surface water or groundwater. Silage effluent has the potential to be one of the most potent sources of pollution on a farm since it is very acidic and contains high levels of ammonia and nitrates. In a stream, it can be an important cause of fish kills. To manage the risk of potential silage leaks, you should:
minimize silage production in order to limit silage storage
manage moisture levels of stored silage
locate your silage storage away from and down slope of surface water
implement a silage effluent collection system or a system to reduce and remove leachate
direct silage effluent away from watercourses and wells
collect and store silage effluent before disposing of it
maintain silage storage facilities in good conditions
Even a small petroleum fuel leak of just a few litres can lead to the extensive contamination of surface or groundwater, impacting human, animal and environmental health. Farmers should implement measures to avoid potential leaks. Fuel storage should have a secondary containment that will contain leaks should they occur. Fuel containers should be checked for safety in order to reduce the risk of punctures, spills and fires and be monitored for damages or leaks by recording gauge readings following filling and withdrawal.
Most farm families are supplied by wells tapping into groundwater. As our environment changes so can the quality of our drinking water. The early detection of water quality problems can protect the health of your family and the sustainability of your business. Regular water testing will give property owners a reliable benchmark and may provide insight into future changes in water quality.
A well designed and properly managed irrigation system reduces water loss to evaporation, deep percolation and runoff and minimizes erosion from applied water. The system should at least record water use and be adaptable to the irrigation schedule to take into account crop water needs, soil moisture holding limitations, rainfall and evapotranspiration. Irrigation systems will reduce irrigation water waste, improve water use efficiency and decrease the total pollutant discharge.
Understanding water use is important to dairy farmers and their neighbours. Farmers need the information to size and develop efficient, cost-effective water systems, and neighbours require it to make informed decisions on the dairy’s impact on the water table. Accurately estimating and monitoring water use is key to minimizing costs and protecting water supplies. Metering can be an effective tool to manage water use on dairies and result in reduced costs and more efficient systems.
Many conservation practices to re-use water in milk production and processing may be implemented. For example, the water used to clean milking parlours may be reused to clean production areas and then irrigate fields. Also, modern dairy farms often use a heat exchanger—a technology that uses cold water to partially cool milk—and then collect the water, which is used again as drinking water for cows. Other measures to reduce water consumption include:
fixing leaks, since a leaking pipe joint or dripping faucet can contribute to the loss of 10 gallons of water per unit per day
securing water bowls by building concrete bases to prevent shifting, leaks and overflow from the side of the trough
collecting rainwater from the barn roof to water livestock (test the water to determine suitability for livestock watering)
recycling pre-cooler water that chills the milk for washing
using the cow cooling system only when needed (rather than continually)
reusing the last wash water cycle (cleanest water) for the first wash on the next milking cycle
diverting wash water from a clean-in-place system to a storage tank. This water can be reused to wash the parlour
Milking centre wash water is a mix of water, milk solids and fat, chemicals used to clean and sanitize the milking system and bulk tank and, possibly, small amounts of manure and animal feed. Because it contains nutrients like phosphorus and nitrogen and detergents, acids and potential pathogens, wash water must be disposed of properly. Wash water poses a contamination risk to groundwater and surface water and should not be disposed of in ditches or watercourses.
A key practice to avoid surface and groundwater contamination is to know the location of water sources and watercourses and ensure that manure, fertilizer and pesticide applications are carried out at a large distance. The larger the setback distance, the less likely an accidental application will occur in waterways and the risk of the overland flow of nutrients or pesticides into water is decreased. Dairy farms must observe a setback distance that is at least as large as prescribed by regulation. When a setback distance is not prescribed, then a reasonable distance should be maintained based on soil type, slope, vegetation, manure application practices (injected, surface applied with or without incorporation) and the type of water feature.
Biologically diverse ecosystems provide a number of critically important goods and services that benefit humans and the environment. While conserving and enhancing biodiversity may come at an upfront financial cost to producers, there are significant return benefits, including:
soil formation and retention processes (e.g. vegetated strips or buffer zones help maintain soil productivity and prevent soil loss due to wind and water erosion)
nutrient breakdown, storage and cycling (i.e. breaking down nutrients and maintaining water quality)
reduction of pest populations (i.e. diverse plant populations help maintain healthy populations of pest-controlling wildlife, which, in turn, helps reduce crop losses)
pollination services (i.e. diverse plant species support pollinators such as bees and flower flies, which enhance yields for pollinator-dependent crops)
These goods and services can reduce the need for inputs such as pesticides and fertilizers, increase the productive capacity of the land and reduce production risks. They therefore have the potential to maintain or even increase farm profitability. In addition, maintaining biodiversity on agricultural lands can increase land value and provide opportunities to develop agri-tourism and other niche marketing activities.
A growing body of research shows that enteric methane emissions can be reduced through feeding strategies. While some of these strategies are experimental and require further development, others are applicable and show interesting potential. They include:
supplementing diets with fats and oils (note that supplemental levels should not exceed recommendations since a significant decline in dry matter intake can dramatically decrease milk production) - up to a 15% reduction in enteric CH4
frequently optimizing the diet to provide the nutrients required by all animal classes (i.e. lactating, dry, replacements) - up to10% reduction in enteric CH4
harvesting forages at optimum maturity to maximize digestible energy content and ensure appropriate preservation for high quality - can reduce enteric CH4 by 15%
Before selecting a new feeding strategy, make sure to verify its effectiveness in reducing emissions, its potential impact on your profitability and the feasibility of its implementation on your farm.
A strategy determines the direction in which an organization must move to fulfil its mission. A strategic plan acts as a road map to carry out the strategy and achieve long-term results. You can work with an advisor specialized in business management to prepare your plan or draft it on your own. In both cases, you should be able to respond to the following questions:
What is our purpose, our mission?
What are our dreams and aspirations? Where do we want to go (vision)?
What are our values, our principles?
What are the short- and long- term objectives that will enable us to enhance our opportunities and strengths, counter threats and better our weaknesses?
A formal agreement between business partners helps to work through disputes since resolution can be extremely difficult without one. To be legally binding, shareholder and partnership agreements must be written by a lawyer. In other words, these agreements must be formalized.
Succession planning helps agricultural business owners ensure the continued success and profitability of their businesses by transferring ownership and management to someone who can take over for them. Without a succession plan in place, your business is vulnerable to change, especially sudden and unexpected events brought about by illness, injury or a death in the family. By planning ahead, you will ensure that your business thrives with or without your leadership. In addition to protecting your investment, you are also protecting your family and employees from unnecessary stress and disruption during the transition period.
The regulatory context in which you operate your farm is complex and evolving. To ensure the legal compliance of your activities and adapt to legislation changes that could impact your operations, it is important to access resources that will help you identify national and provincial laws and regulations related to your operation. In addition, you should consider having:
someone in charge of monitoring and ensuring the application of legal requirements
a system that identifies regulatory changes
a record of legal documentation, policies, operating procedures and standards that demonstrate your compliance with all requirements
Accurate and up-to-date records are essential to successful farm management. Before any business analysis, budgeting or financial decisions can be made, farm records must be maintained.
In addition to financial record keeping, you should keep records on key activities, including breeding, feeding, harvesting and field records. The less accurate your production records, the less relevant your financial projections will be. Depending on the province in which you are operating, you may also have a legal obligation to keep records of your production practices (e.g. employment and agrochemical use records). There are several benefits to sound record keeping:
Providing educational experiences in the workplace is important for the continued growth of employees but also farm managers. Training gives them the opportunity to learn valuable skills and techniques, increase their knowledge about the industry, envision new opportunities and learn new behaviours. Sessions may address specific themes such as financial management, communications, human resources or product marketing and can also be opportunities to exchange with people outside the agricultural sector.
What cannot be measured cannot be managed. This is why it is important to identify and monitor performance indicators for all areas of your operation. These indicators should be adapted to your specific activities and situation, and their number, complexity and measurement frequency should therefore vary accordingly. For example, if you have a smaller farm, you could monitor your fossil fuel consumption and only monitor your greenhouse gas emissions if you have more resources. You can then use the information you gain to understand, monitor, benchmark and improve your overall performance.
By attending business or agricultural events, you give yourself an opportunity to monitor trends and issues that can affect the future of your farm, create networking and business opportunities and improve your knowledge and skills. Participating in conferences, seminars and training activities, visiting blogs and websites and reading specialized magazines and books are all relevant ways to stay involved and informed on the evolution of the industry. These initiatives will also help you quickly adapt to legislative changes and policies, market trends and the challenges and perspectives of different sectors and provide benchmarking opportunities.
By actively participating in agricultural organizations, value and supply chains and other business organizations, farm team members can contribute to industry solutions and industry advancement. Getting involved in organizations:
helps monitor trends and issues that can affect the future of the farm
provides business opportunities
reduces risks to the farm
creates training opportunities for farm team members in decision-making, organization and human resource management
This involvement may include attending farm organization or industry meetings, serving on farm organization or industry boards and taking part in farm organization or industry-led projects to find solutions to issues or promote success stories to consumers or the public.
Environmental Farm Plan (EFP) / Plan d'accompagnement agroenvironnemental (PAA)
An Environmental Farm Plan (EFP), or a Plan d’accompagnement agroenvironnemental (PAA), is a risk assessment tool to identify ways to make improvements on the farm that will be beneficial to the environment and on-farm management efficiency. To fill out an EFP/PAA, farmers must draft an action plan for each high-risk area. The action plan may include elements ranging from monitoring to the implementation of specific actions. An up-to-date EFP/PAA is a requirement of the proAction® initiative, along with an action plan that addresses areas designated as industry priorities.
Today’s milk consumers—whether they are processors, retailers, exporters or individuals—want assurance that the food they receive is safe, wholesome and produced responsibly. Buyers want further proof that the foods they purchase meet clearly defined food safety standards. The Canadian Quality Milk Program (CQM) is an on-farm HACCP-based food safety program developed by Dairy Farmers of Canada. Producers who have implemented the program have found it to be an excellent risk prevention program, effective management tool and useful training tool that increase staff awareness and responsibility with regards to safe milk and meat production.
Even in dairy farming a business can experience financial pressures when faced with volatile market prices for feed, reduced production due to disease or unexpected cost increases. To face these challenges, seek the support of professional advisors and extension services, which can assist you in assessing your business, examining alternatives, dealing with issues and making decisions. Always be sure to choose competent sources for advice and interventions.
Cost of production (COP) budgeting consists in estimating the costs associated with your productions and the expected revenue. Knowing your cost of production is vital to make farm-level decisions. It will help you maximize profits, optimize transportation and input use, properly manage purchasing and inventory, determine margins, etc. It is a key tool that you should access in order to optimize your production system.
The use of financial ratios and margins to assess, benchmark and monitor farm performance can be useful in farm business management since they make it possible to evaluate asset performance and warn against potential areas or risk. Combining these ratios with an economic analysis of production costs and returns could provide an excellent basis for decision-making. However, like many other tools, these ratios and margins do not guarantee success. Still, their use will certainly improve a farm’s probability of success.
A dairy farm must allocate resources to strengthen its capacity to generate and increase profits over the long term. The enterprise must also invest for long-term solvency and profitability in order to remain in business and enhance its potential and growth. To do so, it is important to ensure that the financial aspects (e.g. budgeting, spending, investments, etc.) of your operations are well managed. Financial plans primarily determine how, when and why money is or should be spent on company activities. Financial planning also makes it possible to set priorities for the farm. Finally, it provides a guarantee for investors that their funds are used responsibly thanks to reliable internal financial records.
On-farm research (including field trials, feed trials and farm field days) is valuable since it is typically conducted with a farm’s own equipment, land and management practices. The question of whether research results are relevant to specific soil types and management strategies is answered immediately. Furthermore, conducting on-farm research will make it possible to:
stay informed of recent developments in the industry
carry out pilot projects before implementing a complete change on the farm
learn about the innovations made elsewhere that can be adapted to your context
get involved in research and development at the community level (e.g. within agricultural cooperatives or other producer groups)
promote innovations that improve quality of life for all business partners
Dairy farmers operate in constantly changing physical and market environments. Implementing new technologies and practices that are consistent with your business goals is a way to cope with this situation. Examples of such innovations include automated milking systems (i.e. milking robots), precision agriculture (i.e. satellite farming), artificial insemination and cow pedometers, to name a few. By testing and using more innovative practices and technologies, you can improve your efficiency by producing more, minimizing your environmental impact and increasing your profitability.
An income diversification strategy helps farmers reduce their economic risks. It may, for instance, involve growing multiple crops, selling crop by-products or having multiple livestock species or different varieties of the same crop (e.g. yellow maize, white corn or high-protein corn). Diversification also involves off-farm activities. The benefits of farm diversification include:
more stable or increased farm income
more efficient use of land, machinery, buildings and labour
opportunities for future growth
Successful diversification projects are the result of careful planning. They capitalize on current interests, skills and resources on the farm.
Farm profitability is directly related to how well your business can handle risks, whether they are natural, financial or legal. This is why a solid risk management plan is so important. Risk management plans are developed on an individual basis The key is to select risk management strategies that meet the needs and goals of your farm.
Farming is a risky business. While mitigating risk is important, it is also crucial to be able to cope with the consequences when unfortunate events occur. To do so, it is recommended to have adequate insurance coverage adapted to your situation.
By requiring information on the origin of the cattle diet (e.g. grass, roughages, grains, concentrates, food waste, co-products, minerals and vitamins) and the modes of production used (e.g. presence of GM crops, use neonicotinoid-treated seeds, use of irrigation), you could better understand their potential impacts and manage the associated risks.
By discussing the option to acquire products that are more environmentally friendly and less harmful to human health with farm input suppliers could contribute to reduce the environmental footprint of your operations.
Many practices can help minimize the risk of complaints from neighbours:
complying provincial and federal legislation
implementing responsible and defensible farm management practices
building facilities and manure storage structures as far from neighbours as possible
reducing the amount of farm odours, spray drift and noise through simple practices (e.g. use sound-absorbing materials to reduce noise from crop-drying fans)
possibly changing the design or management of facilities (e.g. in certain applications, manure composting can reduce storage volume, odour and nuisance pests and adding liquid manure to the storage from the bottom rather than the top will enable the surface to crust over, curbing the release of odours)
contact all neighbour(s) a few days before events such as manure spreading to give them time to take appropriate action
When complaints arise, the first step is to try to resolve the conflict by speaking to your neighbour in order to open up the lines of communication. Provincial legislation also can provide guidance and protocols to resolve issues.
Best management practices are important but do little to pacify neighbours who do not understand or appreciate the efforts and investment you are making in environmental quality or even the contribution that agriculture makes to the economy.
Helping to organize a local farm tour, an agricultural fair or other non-farming community events enables farmers to put a face on the industry by answering questions, explaining farm practices and forging relationships.
Also, it is important to make sure that local community members are aware of the communication channels, which should facilitate exchanges between the farm and citizens.
The farm is an important part of the local community and farm practices can affect the community. Community issues and actions can also affect the farm. Community involvement can include making donations to local organizations, providing free services to community members or employing people in social rehabilitation.
Fair opportunities for local employment should be offered whenever possible. This can be achieved, for instance, by advertising positions in public media, such as newspapers, websites and bulletin boards for local citizens who would be potential candidates for the position.
Agriculture serves several functions, in addition to food and fibre production. It can contribute to flood prevention, cultural elements preservation, biodiversity conservation, to maintain rural life and to attract tourism. Protecting and promoting agricultural landscapes is a way to benefit from the multiple functions of agricultural activities.
In order to ensure that employees fully understand the working conditions and avoid disputes, provide them with a formal and written contract. When hiring or contracting a new employee (including temporary workers and family labour), make sure to:
provide him/her with an agreement in his/her own language and listing his/her and your legal rights and obligations and the terms of employment
The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees employees the right to good faith negotiation and requires that all parties meet and engage in meaningful dialogue. Employees should be able to establish and effectively manage employee associations and should not be hindered in their participation. This type of dialogue will help ensure that working conditions are satisfactory for both parties.
Most family farm businesses have a loose organizational structure. In many cases a loose structure works well, but as operations become larger and more complex, problems can occur. The standard mistake is to have too many bosses.
An organization chart helps you to set up your business so that it is clear who reports to whom.
No two farm businesses are organized identically. However, certain principles apply to any organization. The keys to effective organizing include:
proper planning of the organization, so that managers and supervisors have clear areas of responsibility
clear relationships among the people in the organization
delegation of authority
clear limits of authority
a structure that is simple to understand and yet covers all operations and activities
Each employee should be evaluated periodically (at least annually). This will benefit both the employer and the employee. The employer should know if the employee is meeting the requirements outlined in the job description, and the employee should know where he/she stands relative to the employer’s expectations.
The rules on the maximum number of hours of work per day and per week, daily and weekly rest periods and eating periods do not apply to most farm workers. However, it is important to avoid extended working hours (over 48 hours per week). When extended hours are required, make sure that:
overtime only occurs for limited periods of time (e.g. peak harvest, planting)
overtime conditions are negotiated and agreed upon
the overtime does not lead to a work week of over 60 hours
Workers have the legitimate expectation of fair wages for their efforts and the energy they invest in their work. When required by law, salaries must not be below minimum wage. If possible, salaries should be competitive as compared to the sectoral average.
Regardless of performance or skills acquisition, salaries should be adjusted based on inflation in order to preserve your employees’ purchasing power. The inflation rate usually fluctuates around the 2% target set by the Bank of Canada.
Risk management is an integral part of good management practices and an important step in protecting your employees and your business and complying with the law. It is an interactive process consisting of steps which, when undertaken in sequence, enable continuous improvement in decision-making.
They help to:
create awareness of hazards and risks
identify the individuals at risk (e.g. employees, visitors, contractors, the public) and the level of risk
ensure the farm’s compliance with occupational health and safety regulations
demonstrate due diligence
determine the control measures that are required and if current measures are adequate
prevent operational losses due to injury, illness, lost production or equipment or property damage
Personal protective equipment (PPE) is worn by a worker to minimize exposure to specific occupational hazards and includes respirators, gloves, aprons, fall protection, full body suits and head, eye and foot protection. PPE is essential to maintain a safe and healthy work environment.
Farms are often located in remote areas, and help can often take a long time to arrive. Quick response is critical. Knowing what to do in a medical emergency could help increase a person’s chance of survival in the case of a serious injury. All employees should follow first-aid training.
In an emergency, a fast and coordinated response can lessen the impact of an injury and may even save lives. In preparation for an emergency situation, all employees should receive and understand clear emergency procedures and instructions.
In Canada, the provincial, territorial and federal governments regulate the employment of children and youth. Generally, children and youth under the age of 18 may work as long as the activities do not negatively impact their health, welfare or safety or interfere with their school attendance. Most provinces do not allow children under the age of 14 to work, except in special cases.
In order to avoid conflict and make sure everyone's expectations are adequately communicated, have at least one regular staff member who speaks the language spoken by the temporary foreign workers on the farm.
Providing temporary foreign workers with means of transportation will give them the opportunity to be more independent during their time off for grocery shopping and other personal activities. It can also facilitate their integration within the community.
Taking time off is not an easy thing to do on a dairy farm but it remains essential for you and your family to ensure a healthy work-life balance, fight stress and be more productive. Being able to go on holidays or weekends off is part of a healthy lifestyle on a dairy farm.
Farm management can be stressful. Unfortunately, too many farmers experience mental and physical health issues caused by too much work and solitude. Managing stress and striving for a work-life balance by adopting a healthy lifestyle and an active social life should always be a priority. Several resources are available to farmers to help them achieve a sound balance for a sustainable lifestyle on the farm.
Standard operating procedures (SOPs) are documented, step-by-step instructions that describe how you want a particular task carried out. Examples of acceptable SOP methods are written, pictorial, video or electronic files. Please note, SOPs in electronic format should be backed-up. Establishing SOPs helps everyone on your farm apply procedures in a consistent manner and clearly understand your expectations. Furthermore, if something goes wrong, the SOPs can be re-evaluated to determine the areas for improvement to ensure that the problem does not reoccur.
It is important to involve family members and employees in the development and implementation of a biosecurity plan and the annual review and educate them on the importance of following the biosecurity plan and their roles in enforcing and making the plan work. It may be useful to designate a family member or an employee (on a rotational basis) who will be responsible for implementing biosecurity and food safety standards on the farm on a day-to-day basis.
Dairy farms are relatively open environments and therefore require the active control of all types of visitors using a risk-based approach to farm entry and facility access. Visitors are expected to contact you or another responsible individual on your farm before their arrival to confirm their visit and to be informed of the practices to follow during the visit. You should consider keeping a record of all visitors, including consultants, sales representatives, delivery persons, haulers, maintenance workers, and veterinarians.
Reading of the Code of practice for the care and handling of farm animals
The Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Dairy Cattle provides a mechanism for dairy producers to demonstrate their standards for good animal care. The Code includes requirements that all Canadian producers are expected to follow, such as no tail docking and the use of pain control during dehorning. The Code also includes recommended best practices. Following these best practices ensures animal welfare and is important to the success of the farm since healthy, comfortable cows produce more milk of higher quality.
Application of the Code of practice for the care and handling of farm animals
The Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Dairy Cattle provides a mechanism for dairy producers to demonstrate their standards for good animal care. The Code includes requirements that all Canadian producers are expected to follow, such as no tail docking and the use of pain control during dehorning. The Code also includes recommended best practices. Following these best practices ensures animal welfare and is important to the success of the farm since healthy, comfortable cows produce more milk of higher quality.
Animals should always be handled with care and in a calm, easy manner, following a consistent routine to reduce fear, avoid injury, facilitate observation and treatment and enhance animal well-being and productivity.