Let the bells ring and the banners fly ... we at Will-a-Way Farms have our Canadian Quality Milk (CQM) certification as of last Friday...and on the first attempt.
The Canada wide CQM program is a producer initiated and producer funded HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points) initiative especially for dairy farms and consists of specific areas being examined, possible problems identified and the responses necessary to correct them. Lots and lots of paperwork to add to a farmer’s work load as daily logs are maintained.
When the big yellow binder arrived last summer, we, like many, took one look, shook our heads in disgust and threw it in a cupboard — our certification date of May 2012 was a long way off.
Over the winter, we took it out several times, read sections and again shook our heads — this was crazy! Paperwork on top of paperwork, records upon records.
Finally something had to be done. The first stop was the Dollar store — page dividers, plastic page protectors and pouches. Next was labeling the various divisions and compiling the information needed. Some, like water test results, were copied directly from the DFO (Dairy Farmers of Ontario) site. The drug information leaflets for medications we use were printed from a web site. Copies of the various log sheets were made and filed. Slowly we filled in the areas.
The most frustrating were the SOP (Standard Operating Procedures), a step-by-step description of the milking process on our farm, and the Corrective Actions Procedures. Once we realized that the aim of the game was to write both as if it was the proverbial village idiot (no insult intended to anyone) who was trying to milk our cows or solve a problem, it became simple.
Every time a dial or switch or cupboard or shelf was referred to, the exact description and location was repeated and nothing taken for granted. Easy!
When it came to identifying the various feeds in the feed room, maybe we did go a bit overboard by labeling the bins of sand and gravel used for the lane in the winter. At this point, however, it was a case of better safe than sorry.
Other requirements made absolutely no sense. Why can a spare water bowl not sit on a shelf in the milk house? Put it in a plastic bin though and it is fine. Weird.
So, the DFO Field Rep arrived, conducted our bi-annual Grade A inspection, then proceeded on to the CQM. Verification. After an hour or so, the announcement: “You’ve passed!” and a huge sigh of relief from us.
Two extremely minor changes to be made to the SOP, but we have it. Now, each year, we will have to “self evaluate” our farm’s conditions while the DFO staff perform random, unannounced spot checks. The main hurdle is over, now we maintain it.