Not many people know that the health of the soil plays a major role in the production of good milk. Big dairy companies like Danone encourage proper farmer practices that involve healthy soil maintenance, which ultimately leads to healthy pastures for dairy cows to enjoy.
In this week’s Gather To Grow Twitter session, host Dawn Noemdoe is joined by Free State Dairy farmer Nompe Zim, Agricultural Research Council senior researcher Wanda Nkosi, and Vaughan Koopman, milk producing and relations sustainable agricultural manager of Danone Southern Africa.
“I would like to put it as simply as possible, but it is not an easy journey being a dairy farmer,” said Nkosi. “We see milk on the table, but where does it come from? The first and most important thing is that there needs to be grass; it comes from the field. The grass grows in the field, where it always starts with the soil. I think that is one part people neglect.”
Soil health is important
Nkosi explained the importance of healthy soil to promote the pasture as it directly influences the health of dairy cows. He said the soil must have the right amount of fungi bacteria, micronutrients, and microorganisms to sustain the soil fertility, which then transfers to the pastures the cows eat. To sustain that balance, farmers need the soil to be tested regularly so that they can identify any issues that might arise.
“Once the cow is milked, then you have a quality product that is then taken to the factory so that the likes of Danone can produce a variety of products that can be made,” he said.
Providing nutritional value
Koopman told listeners that it is important to remind ourselves of the role milk plays in nutrition and even jobs, it employs a lot of people, especially in rural areas where jobs are important.
He said Danone has set its sustainability targets as part of its impact journey and focuses on health, by providing products that encourage good nutrition, nature, and communities.
“Nature and communities are interlinked because communities come from the rural areas in the farm where people are available to help produce milk. One of the key things is soil,” he said. “Our food security is dependent on soil and our production of milk is dependent on how healthy the soil is.”
Support for farmers
He said improving the soil is not a new thing. Things like tillage factors, minimum tillage, and how-to farm ploughs have been around for more than 20 years.
“All the farms that we have are tilling their soil as little as possible. We have a programme that helps support the farmer and we monitor and track the different practices that are used on the farm,” he added.
“There are many things that a farmer can do, namely improving soil health by planting many different kinds of species; but the more the better.”
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