October 23, 2014 — Dairy farmers across the U.S. continue to care of their animals under the highest standards possible, according to a report released by the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF).
“We have a national program in place to demonstrate the commitment that dairy farmers have for their herds,” NMPF’s Chris Galen said on DairyLine. “And, we continue to make improvements in the overall quality of care that farmers give to their cows.”
The summary report, issued annually, quantifies practices by farmers participating in the industry’s responsible care program, known as the National Dairy FARM Program (Farmers Assuring Responsible Management). A copy of the report can be found online.
The report quantifies the results of more than 12,000 dairy farm evaluations conducted during the previous three years. All the data collected by second-party evaluators who visit each of those farms is catalogued, and provides a baseline of the breadth of adoption of the program’s care practices.
For example, the report found nearly 95 percent of farms enrolled in the program train their employees to properly move animals that cannot walk, and more than 98 percent train employees to handle calves with a minimum of stress. Other findings included:
- 99 percent of farms observe animals daily to identify health issues for early treatment;
- 93 percent develop protocols with veterinarians for dealing with common diseases, calving and animals with special needs;
- 92 percent train workers to recognize the need for animals to be euthanized.
“What we are seeing is a high degree of training and compliance that goes on, in terms of farm managers and owners working with their employees, to make certain that cows get their optimal care,” Galen said. At the same time, the report found some areas still need improvement. For example, 84 percent of farms in the program have a valid veterinarian-client relationship, and 84 percent also conduct annual training in animal care for employees. However, both of these areas have shown an increase in industry adoption, up from 80 percent and 83 percent, respectively, since the first annual report two years ago.
“All this is a way of saying that farmers are caring for their animals, and we’re not just talking the talk when we make that point, we’re actually walking the walk in terms of providing data to back that up.”
This week at their joint annual meeting in Grapevine, Texas, NMPF board members will vote on whether or not participating companies require that every farm associated with that company has to require those farms to be in the FARM program.
“We are expecting that our board will approve that change,” Galen said. “So, when a cooperative or a proprietary processor say they are a participant in the FARM program…all farms handled by that co-op or processor have to be enrolled.”
Overall, according to the report, participation in the FARM Program increased to more than three-quarters of the nation’s milk supply, up five percentage points from the previous year.
Available to all U.S. dairy farmers in the United States, the FARM program is now in its fifth year. It is a voluntary, national set of guidelines designed to demonstrate farmers’ commitment to outstanding animal care and a quality milk supply. Cooperatives, milk processors, and individual producers use the program to assure consumers that the dairy foods they purchase are produced with integrity.
Participants are given training materials and are evaluated by a veterinarian or another trained professional. Evaluators provide a status report and, if necessary, recommend areas for improvement.
Each year, a nationwide sample of dairy farms in the program is randomly selected for visits from third-party “verifiers” to assure that the observations recorded by veterinarians are valid. A certified auditing company, Validus, conducts the third-party verification process.
The third annual verification of the FARM program reflects adoption of select practices as of December 2013. As of this month, more than 60 cooperatives and milk processors participate in the program, as well as dozens of individual dairy producers.
NMPF also released the new 2015 edition of its safe use manual for antibiotics and other animal drugs. The Milk and Dairy Beef Drug Residue Prevention Manual permits producers to quickly review those antibiotics approved for use with dairy animals. It can also be used to educate farm managers in how to avoid drug residues in milk and meat. The manual, available online, is updated annually.