The proAction Initiative: What it means for the dairy industry and its consumers.

Canadian dairy farmers are very proud people. They are proud of their work and the quality of the product that they provide consumers with everyday. They, however, also have to fight to keep their good reputation like many other animal industries. This is done by following strict regulation that is set up by the dairy industry itself.

In 1997, an initiative called Canadian Quality Milk (CQM) was created by Dairy Farmers of Canada (DFC) in order to be proactive and prepared for when consumers began to demand for on-farm food safety regulations (DFC, 2005). This program was the first step of a larger six module initiative created by DFC where each module would be implemented at different stages to make the transition easier for dairy producers. This larger initiative would be known as proAction and the six modules included Milk Quality, Food Safety, Animal Care, Traceability, Biosecurity and Environment (DFC, 2015). Milk Quality and Food safety were implemented in 2015 with 99% of the farms being registered in 2016 (DFC, 2016).

The next module that is being introduced to farmers is that of Animal Care. This module is concerned with animal health, comfort and their care. Since 1996, DFC has invested in animal care research with the aim to improve these three topics. In 2009, the Code of Practice was updated to ensure proper handling and care of dairy cattle. This module was implemented in September of 2016 with Holstein Canada assessing animal care and comfort on every single dairy farm in Canada. DFC also continuously work to improve animal care alongside of National Farm Animal Care Council (NFACC) (DFC, 2016). The code of Practice for dairy cattle include six sections: Accommodation, Housing and handling facilities, Feed and Water, Health and Welfare Management Husbandry Practices, Transportation and Euthanasia (NFACC, 2009). Animal Traceability is also being implemented at the same time as Animal Care. Traceability will allow for the industry to know exactly where the animal has been throughout its life including any contact it may have had with other animals at any point. This module helps to increase the trust between consumers and producers by letting them know where their food is coming from (DFC, 2016).

There is often concerns for why newborn calves are separated from their mother not long after being born. Producers do this to keep the calf safe and healthy. Cows can be major source of bacteria and illnesses for a newborn calf which is why calves are removed from their mother after she has cleaned the calf. Calves, unlike human babies, are born without an immune system since the placenta does not allow the transfer of antibodies (immunoglobulins) from the mother to the fetus during pregnancy. They only receive an immune system through drinking colostrum. Colostrum is the first milk a cow gives after calving. It contains antibodies along with many nutrients and provides warmth to the calf. Best practices include feeding the calf 4L of high quality, clean colostrum within one hour of birth with a second feeding of 2-3L of colostrum within the next 8 hours (OMAFRA, 2008; NFACC, 2009). Calves are also removed from the mother in cases where she is aggressive towards the calf and the producer does not want to risk the calf being injured.

The proAction initiative is essential to the success of the dairy industry in the future. Consumers are wanting to know more and more about what goes on on farms and want to know that the products that they are eating and using are safe and health for them all the while that they were produced in the best possible way. The last three modules are to be all implemented by 2023 which allows time for training and validation on all farms (DFC, 2017).



Dairy Farmers of Canada. 2005. Canadian Quality Milk – History and Benefits. Available at…/CQMHistoryDec05.pdf (accessed February 8, 2017). Dairy Farmers of Canada, Ottawa, ON.

Dairy Farmers of Canada. 2015. proAction Implementation Guide. Available at (accessed February 8, 2017). Dairy Farmers of Canada, Ottawa, ON.

Dairy Farmers of Canada. 2016. Animal Care – Targets & Achievements. Available at (accessed February 8, 2017). Dairy Farmers of Canada, Ottawa, ON.

Dairy Farmers of Canada. 2016. Food Safety – Targets & Achievements. Available at (accessed February 8, 2017). Dairy Farmers of Canada, Ottawa, ON.

Dairy Farmers of Canada. 2016. What is proAction? – Traceability. Available at (accessed February 8, 2017). Dairy Farmers of Canada, Ottawa, ON.

Dairy Farmers of Canada. 2017. ProAction – Technical Resources Overview. Available at (accessed February 8, 2017). Dairy Farmers of Canada, Ottawa, ON.

National Farm Animal Care Council. 2009. Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Dairy Cattle. Available at (accessed February 8, 2017). National Farm Animal Care Council, Lacombe, AB.

OMAFRA. 2008. Colostrum for Dairy Calf- Factsheet. Available at (accessed February 8, 2017). Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, Guelph, ON.

3 responses to “The proAction Initiative: What it means for the dairy industry and its consumers.”

  1. dominicmercierprovencher says:

    The introduction of the article is well constructed and present gradually the main subject of the article. I feel that the audience can be very well inform on the proAction program only by reading this article. The text is considered neutral since I did not feel any position taken by the author. In the before last paragraph, I think a reference should be included when talking about the reasons why newborn calves must be separated from their mother not long after being born. Other than that, I think that all the information contained in this article is mostly scientifically accurate and references are abundant. The writer did come off as a respectable professional since the choice of words used and the sentence constructions were appropriate. I would have like to read a description of the coming modules (Biosecurity and Environment) and possible implications in term of broad requirements that dairy producers will be facing in the future. In conclusion, I loved this article because I learn few things that I did not know about the proAction Initiative.

    Dominic Provencher

  2. krystalcoddington says:

    This article is well-written and quite informative on the Canadian ProAction plan. The section in this article concerning the steps which are currently being implemented, animal care, and traceability, are both well explained. However, I would have liked to have more details on the first two and last two steps of the ProAction plan (milk quality, food safety, biosecurity, and environment). Also, the paragraph concerning young calves being taken away from their mothers seemed off topic to me as it deals more with the consumer’s perception of agriculture rather than the effects of ProAction on the dairy industry and dairy consumers. References are reliable and recent. The author comes off as a respectable professional as they are neutral and knowledgeable on the subject. Overall, this was an enjoyable and informative article.

  3. Julie Major says:

    The article focuses on the proAction program as the newest dairy industry-lead project to respond to consumer demands. What is the relationship between the paragraph on calves and proAction? I would have rather seen more details given on the actual proAction requirements and workings – how much of a change does this program mean for farmers? How much of a difference does it make for animal welfare? What happens if producers don’t meet the standards?
    The notion that calves are better off separated from their mother has me thinking. I’m sure that’s factually true in our current production systems. In Nature though, if it was better for a newborn mammal to be separated from its mother, I would argue that this species would not be very fit. But then we have taken over from Nature, to various extents, in our agricultural systems. Still, I wonder if this says something about the general health of dairy cattle. I guess one can make parallels to and ask the same question about the health and fitness of corn field, apple orchards, etc. I bet the cow/calf issue raises more passions because being mammals ourselves, we relate more to cows than corn plants.

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