Kerry's heritage lies in dairy production and although we have evolved beyond our origins in milk processing, we retain strong links with the farming community from which we have grown. Each year we collect and process over a billion litres of milk from small family farms in South West Ireland and turn this into the highest quality dairy ingredients. Through Kerry Agribusiness we work closely with our dedicated group of over 3,000 farmers to help ensure the sustainability of this important raw material, as laid out in our Dairy Position Statement.
With a mild climate and abundant rainfall, Ireland has the ideal conditions for grass based dairy farming and Kerry's suppliers produce milk from cows that graze on pasture for up to 300 days per year. Milk production follows the seasons with peak volumes coinciding with the summer months when grass is most plentiful. During the colder winter months, the animals are housed indoors and fed a diet that is predominantly made up of conserved grass silage.
This natural system of production helps contribute to the quality and sustainability of the dairy we produce. The milk from these family farms is free from antibiotics and growth hormones, thanks in part to small herd sizes, which also help ensure that high welfare standards are maintained.
The quality and sustainability credentials of our milk suppliers is independently certified under Ireland's Sustainable Dairy Assurance Scheme (SDAS). An internationally recognised standard for quality and sustainability, SDAS was developed by Bord Bia (the Irish Food Board) as part of the Origin Green programme in Ireland. Kerry is committed to the certification of its milk suppliers under this programme and sees SDAS as an important tool for promoting continuous on-farm improvement.
As a global business, we source dairy ingredients from other processors who operate outside of Ireland. For these materials, it is more difficult for Kerry to influence farm management practices as we do not have a direct relationship with the farmers concerned. Here, we work indirectly through our suppliers to promote sustainable agriculture within our extended global supply chain.
Through SAI Platform, Kerry is working with suppliers and a number of industry partners to look at key impact areas for dairy production. With the understanding that impacts can differ from region to region, we are involved in a pilot programme that aims to determine how these key impact areas can best be addressed.
Kerry is the only major milk processor to have 100% of its milk suppliers certified under the Sustainable Dairy Assurance Scheme. Since the launch of SDAS in December 2013, Kerry Agribusiness has been working directly with farmers to support them through the audit process. Qualified advisors help farmers to engage with the standard and to understand the requirements laid out for producers. Independent audits take place every 18 months and many of our farmers have now successfully undergone assessment for a second time.
Having achieved our target of 100% certification last year, we are now examining the audit data to identify key areas for action. By tailoring our farm support programmes based on this information, our goal is to help farmers understand some of the practical ways in which they can improve the sustainability of their farms.