While dairy producers have a longstanding commitment to animal well-being, no uniform system has existed nationally by which animal care practices could be documented for consumers and corporate buyers of dairy products. In order to fill that need, the nation’s dairy industry this year is launching the Farmers Assuring Responsible Management (FARM) program. For California producers participating in this nation-wide initiative, CDQAP is providing practical support in the form of free workshops, protocol templates and employee educational tools.
The national dairy FARM program was developed by the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) and Dairy Management Inc. (DMI), part of the national dairy board. The program uses an on-farm evaluation to examine animal care practices and includes performance-based monitoring (scoring) for locomotion, body condition, hock injuries, and animal hygiene. While nationally the program is voluntary, the four largest creameries in California require producer participation, meaning that approximately 90% of the milk produced in the state will come from evaluated dairies.
The initial on-farm evaluations are to be performed by specially trained creamery staff or other representative designated by the processor. In order to assure that the program is accurately accessing animal care practices, randomly selected dairies will undergo an additional verification evaluation by a third-party animal care expert who has no relationship with the farm.
At the request of the state’s dairy industry the CDQAP is delivering workshops to introduce producers to the program and to help them complete the evaluation efficiently. Totaling 6 hours, the set of two classes focus on key animal care areas such as calf care, feet and leg health, euthanasia plans, emergency plans and more. Producers attending class receive a resource/herd health plan binder which includes useful protocol templates, employee training materials and animal care resources.
Funded by the non-profit California Dairy Research Foundation (CDRF) the CDQAP workshops (and associated outreach materials) were collaboratively developed using the expertise of some of the top livestock veterinarians and animal care scientists in the UC system. “Providing producers with resources and training that offer real-world solutions to complex regulatory challenges and social issues has always been the goal of CDQAP.” said CDQAP Executive Director Dr. Michael Payne. “We’re delighted to be able to widen the umbrella to now include animal care.”