Nearly 98% of the U.S. milk supply is produced on farms that participate in the Farmers Assuring Responsible Management (FARM) program. As these dairy producers are well aware, the verification from FARM, and often the ability to work with a cooperative to market milk, stems from on-farm evaluations by certified individuals.
To best prepare for an animal care or environmental evaluation, a dairy farmer can review the FARM prep guides, shared Beverly Hampton Phifer, stakeholder relations manager for the program, in a recent FARM Quick Convos episode.
On www.nationaldairyfarm.com, the preparation guides can be found under the FARM Resources tab at the top of the page. These guides remind producers what documents will be reviewed during the evaluation, such as the herd health plan, signed cow care agreements, and veterinarian records for an animal care evaluation, and what those files must include.
Additionally, it explains how animals and farm facilities will be evaluated, including body condition score, hygiene, and adequate housing conditions. To participate in the program, this evaluation will occur at least once every three years, Phifer reminded.
Of course, it is that time between evaluations when animal care standards, as well as environmental, antibiotic, and workforce stewardship measures, are put into place to ensure the dairy is taking the best care of its resources. Also available with the evaluation prep guides are the standards FARM looks to follow and the science behind why those criteria exist.
“There is farmer representation into those different task forces. Those are the folks that actively review, revise, and draft the standards or statements that are put out by the FARM program,” Phifer said. Those farmers are joined in developing standards by veterinarians, animal scientists, and other industry personnel.
A variety of learning materials in the form of short videos and fact sheets are available for employees to understand why certain protocols are followed. Templates for developing and writing down those protocols for situations such as nonambulatory cows, fly control, vaccinations, and others can be downloaded as well. “If you’re looking for templates or draft protocols, we try our best to create those in a variety of formats that are easiest for that individual dairy farm,” Phifer explained. “We don’t want folks to have to recreate the wheel.”
If a dairy operation has any questions about the FARM program or preparing for an evaluation, Phifer said to seek help from your representative in the organization signed on to the program. “That co-op or processor should be your first stop resource for anything FARM-related,” she said.
Further, the farm’s evaluator can be a source of information when questions come up about standards, as that person will be certified in animal care and/or environmental stewardship.