Some mates with…Valentina Miller
14 Feb 2023
This month we talked to the Veterinarian and Animal Welfare Advisor of “La Rosalía”, a pioneer in our country in obtaining animal welfare certification.
What is the history of “La Rosalía”?
“La Rosalía” is a family agricultural company dedicated to the production of quality milk since 1981, located in the town of Espinillo, Entre Ríos.
What are your premises when it comes to quality production?
We are strong advocates of sustainable agricultural practices, nutritional education, environmental management, animal welfare and sustainability of our farm.
What actions do you take to achieve this?
We work in 3 areas, with different actions. On the one hand, we reduce the environmental impact through the use of solar panels to generate electricity, the reduction of herbicides by a better combination of crops, the use of specific and low toxicity “green band” insecticides and the reduced use of soaps and drinking water. In addition, in order to conserve resources, we reduce soil water erosion through the use of terraces and direct seeding, and we monitor soil fertilization levels. Finally, we focus on improving environmental indicators by measuring the environmental impact of our cultivation practices, because measuring is the first step to improving.
What is a day’s work at “La Rosalía” like?
“La Rosalía” is a dairy farm and therefore there is permanent work. The farm has two milkings a day, one at 3 o’clock in the morning and the other at 3 o’clock in the afternoon. To bring the animals to the holding pen and the milking parlor, the cowboy picks them up 45 minutes before milking. It is important to note that the cows, for welfare reasons, are kept in a nearby lot so that they do not have to travel long distances. When all the cows are milked, milking begins and lasts 3 hours. Then the milking parlor is cleaned and the cows go to their lot to graze until the second milking. In the lots where the cows are, there is shade and they feed in troughs. We check that the water they drink is in good condition, and we also make sure that the roads the cows walk on are in good condition so that they don’t damage their feet. And of course we take care of the calves so that they are well cared for.
What is your background, what led you to become interested in animal welfare?
I have always had a passion for veterinary medicine since I was a child. From a very early age I was linked to agricultural activities thanks to the fact that my father is a farmer. And the subject of animal welfare came up when I grew up, 4 years ago, as a result of my own interest. I have always been interested in training and being aware of this topic, since I like it very much, so I am currently doing a master’s degree in animal welfare.
“La Rosalía” is the establishment that certified animal welfare for the first time in the country and demanded the certification as a strategic vision of where they wanted to go as an agricultural company, not only for themselves and for the continuous improvement of their indicators, but also to give security to their customers. Then they contacted me by phone to work on the quality attribute, which is animal welfare.
What does your work consist of?
In the dairy farm we are 3 veterinarians, I am in charge of animal welfare and eventually some emergencies and my other two colleagues are in charge of the reproductive part and health. My job is to monitor every day the animal welfare conditions so that the protocol we certify is complied with. For that we evaluate that the milking routine is carried out correctly, that the roads are in good condition, that the cows arrive at milking in a calm manner without dogs, sticks or shouting. I also make sure that the cows have adequate shade according to the number of cows and the temperature. For this we control the sprinklers and the fans in the holding pen of the milking parlor.
We are already in the fourth year of certification and it includes milking cows. This is not the only population within the farm, since there are also dry cows (cows that are 60/90 days away from calving), we have the guachera, which are the calves, and we have the rearing.
Another very important issue in the development of this project is the permanent training we provide to our personnel, because one training is not enough, if we want the concepts to take root in the usual practice, we must constantly follow the operation and make the necessary corrections and training reinforcements at the same time that the situations occur.
How many cows do you have and what is the production level?
Today there are approximately 600 cows being milked and each cow produces an average of 30 liters. With animal welfare practices we achieve a more even average throughout the year. Because by improving the comfort situation of the cows, mainly in summer, which is the most critical time, the numbers improve. This was possible because we increased the shaded area, especially in summer, and we used fans and sprinklers in the corral at the entrance to the dairy.
What are the basic aspects to improve the welfare of dairy cows?
We take into account a series of basic aspects, which we consider fundamental, to improve the welfare of our dairy cows, such as: feeding, milking, infrastructure quality, management of the adult herd and their offspring, hygiene and herd health. In this way, we achieve disease prevention, sustainability of the production system and a herd with an adequate animal welfare status.
How do you manage diseases?
We have fitted the cows with intelligent collars that allow us to monitor the temperature, movements and location of the cattle in real time, which facilitates the producer’s tasks. Therefore, guaranteeing the welfare of the cows is essential, and with the collars we can quickly detect when the animal is about to get sick, so we immediately activate the protocol to attack the disease, for example, and prevent contagion or reduce the animal’s mortality. So we have contingency plans for certain situations in case the animal gets sick, but in general, by working with an animal welfare protocol, it allows you to have a lower percentage of animals that get sick. Because by improving animal management, the milking routine is taken into account. So that they do not get mastitis. This is how we achieve that in “La Rosalía” we have a percentage below the expected level of animals with some kind of disease. Because disease is nothing more than an imbalance in welfare.
How did the issue of live monitoring cameras come up?
We put the video cameras in place a long time ago and even before focusing on animal welfare, because one of the markets did not believe that the requirements demanded by the European Union were met in the country. That is why the owner of “La Rosalía” proposed to show 24 hs. live how we work. Today it helps us with animal welfare issues because it allows people to see all the time and with 4 cameras all over the field, through https://larosalia.com.ar/camaras-en-vivo/. This is an excellent way to give credibility to everything, since they can observe our work, they can see that we treat the cows well, as it should be. With the body condition they should have, they have water available all the time, they can see how we cure them, how we inseminate them. The cameras are also useful for us to observe the work of the personnel, the behavior of the animals and to detect the needs for improvement of the whole unit.
What are the benefits of consuming milk from cows that have welfare?
In organoleptic terms there is no difference, but in terms of quality, the milk produced is of course better, since the animals are treated accordingly.
What is the importance of certification?
Certifying animal welfare allows the consumer to be sure that the milk and its derivatives come from animals that enjoy good treatment, with good interaction with the environment and their companions. Through good environmental conditions and correct feeding, we ensure that the cows lead a harmonious life in terms of production and recreation. Certification allows us to improve quality. Not only of the milk, but also to improve the quality of production, because you produce better. Certification regulates the production process through protocols.
What other certifications do you have?
“La Rosalía” is the only dairy in Argentina that is authorized to sell fluid milk to those establishments that want to produce products for the European Union.
Where does the milk go to?
The milk from “La Rosalía”, with animal welfare certification, will be used to manufacture two products: dulce de leche and ice cream. “La Rosalía” is a partner of the company “San Ignacio”, which produces the dulce de leche that is exported to the European Union. On the label there is a QR code, which allows scanning it to get to the link of the cameras of the establishment and so you can see how we produce.
How can consumers learn more about us?
We invite you to visit our website https://larosalia.com.ar/ . We are also in Instagram https://www.instagram.com/est.larosalia/ and Facebook https://www.facebook.com/people/Establecimiento-La-Rosalia/
What are your next plans for 2023?
We are expanding the animal welfare protocol and to be able to include more categories, that will give more exigency to the protocol and that is the way we are going. Today we see that the demand for knowledge on the subject is growing. Consumers are concerned and request that at the time of producing food, quality and treatment of animals are taken into account. We also want our next certification to be carbon neutral, it is a long process that takes 5 years but we are convinced that this is the way to go.
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