Animal welfare is a growing concern among consumers and has prompted the livestock industry to respond. One of those initiatives was the topic of discussion this week at the annual meeting of the Association of Bovine Practitioners.
National Milk’s Chris Galen was there and reported in his weekly Thursday DairyLine program that veterinarians, especially those who deal with bovine livestock, are much more concerned about animal welfare issues than they were 10 or 20 years ago because, while they have a client relationship with producers, they also have a responsibility for the overall welfare of the cows or animals.
Galen outlined the Federation’s new FARM program (Farmers Assuring Responsible Management), which is designed to provide assurances to the dairy marketing chain of the wellbeing of the animals involved in the dairy industry.
Galen discussed the FARM guidelines, which are still being finalized, and use them to walk through a typical dairy, which was the research farm at the University of Nebraska. This farm has about 150 head, he said, with some in tie stalls, some in free stalls, and they use different management practices so the care guidelines were used to show how various farms might be evaluated.
The issue is being driven by consumer concern over animal welfare and is something that won’t go away, Galen warned and he admitted that there are other similar programs being formulated but, “Everything we’ve heard from the retail chain is that they are aware of consumer concern over where food comes from, who produces it, and the conditions under which animals are kept.”
There are and have been ballot initiatives in the Midwest, according to Galen, and Proposition II in California, so National Milk’s program is designed to be proactive, he concluded, to “play some offense and get out in front of these regulatory initiatives.”