Get to know Libby Clement, Regional Food Safety and Assurance Manager

Get to know Libby Clement, Regional Food Safety and Assurance Manager

1 May 2022

Libby Clement has worked her way up, and across the country under Fonterra's milk quality and farm assurance employment pathway.

Libby might not be from a farming background, but after answering questions eight hours a day at the Hamilton-based service centre, she quickly got up to speed with on-farm life when she started with the Co-operative three years ago.

Eager to learn, she progressed to the Regional Food Safety and Assurance Manager (RFSAM) in Bay of Plenty last year and after six months, relocated to New Plymouth earlier this year.

There are eight RFSAMs around the country, who, in summary, support farmers in regulation-based risk mitigation and reputational risk management, with a focus on food safety, milk quality and animal welfare.

Looking at that support offered on a day-to-day basis, there are many hats Libby wears when working with her 1,400 farmers across Taranaki.

Those hats include:

1. Milk Quality support visit

  • Meet with farmers to identify ways to further lower their somatic cell count (SCC).
  • After the visit, farmers receive a report detailing what was identified and the recommendations.
  • Free and independent advice.

"Farmers have really jumped at this advice to help identify opportunities to reduce SCC and introduce milking efficiencies to the shed," Libby says.

"Of course, motivating is the new milk payment parameter for farmers who meet the requirements of the Co-operative Difference."

Delivering milk with an SCC count of less than 150,000 for at least 30 days in a season is one of the conditions a farm needs to meet in order to reach 'Te Puku', the second tier of achievement.

"The Co-operative Difference framework is encouraging positive changes on farm by ensuring we meet our core requirements - whilst also rewarding those who go above and beyond day in, day out."

2. Cared for Cows

  • Animal health assessments
  • Management and wellbeing of herds - identifying needs to be met.

"We work with farmers and support when needed around animal welbeing," Libby says. "We make market claims about 'trusted goodness' so, in turn, we need to support farmers in living up to those claims."

3. Farm Dairy Assessment

  • Provide farmers with an in-depth understanding of their Farm Dairy Assessment.
  • Support farmers to understand industry protocols...covering both minimum requirements and some future-looking items.

"Part of our role is being an expert in those changes and in what's coming," Libby says. "Understanding these changes, and what's required to adapt is part of what we feed through to farmers to help them modify their systems."

4. Responding to risks in animal wellbeing

  • An immediate response capability exists within RFSAM when individual animals and herds are at risk.
  • Turning negative or compromising situations for animal health into positive outcomes.
  • Educating farmers.

"We were recently called to check on some calves which appeared to have no shelter during a wet winter," Libby says. "Fortunately there was no animal wellbeing risk to the calves, but we chatted with the farmer who was proactive and next year there will be a portable shelter provided. Talking helps."

5. Going Digital

  • The Digital Dairy Diary will have an increasing on-and off-farm role, aiding farm visits and practices reviews.
  • Farm practices and procedures are recorded in real-time and, being online, are accessible to Farm Dairy Assessors ahead of the visit.
  • Saves time, allows for more advice to be given in discussions to support.

It's a major tool for productivity, animal health, monitoring, and provenance applications.

"Fonterra realises that the Digital Dairy Diary is a big change, massive, and the hope is to see the majority of farmers using the app by 2025," says Libby. "Part of my role is helping farmers trust the system and showing them the digital ropes.

"Having all that information there, at your fingertips, exactly when you need it is such an advantage."

In it together

Libby says she's in the thick of the province's drying off period, helping farmers with their winter planning, and discussing how best to prepare for calving.

Many days involve being out and about on farms and moving across the region. Other days will find her studying, following up and reporting - by phone or computer - on new possibilities, improvements, and ways to modify on-farm practices.

"No two days and no two farms are the same for me," she says. "We help farmers understand how the compliance requirements are actually good. We provide farmers with tools and knowledge to supply the best quality milk they can."

Libby says she and her team will have even more knowledge at the beginning of the season as they visit farms armed with information outlined in the individual Farm Insight Reports.

"It's really cool being able to turn those insights into outcomes for farmers. The fact everyone is working together under a co-op structure really appealed, and I'm still sold on the shared values.

"I'm proud to support farmers in producing the highest quality milk for the highest quality products. I go home at night knowing I've made an impact and knowing I'm helping individual farmers reach their best potential. It's a great thing to be able to do."