The nation’s signature on-farm quality assurance program, which demonstrates to customers and consumers alike that dairy farmers are upholding the highest standards, is moving to update its animal care standard. Known as FARM — Farmers Assuring Responsible Management — Beverly Hampton-Phifer gave a preview of what’s in store for the animal care program area during the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) and Dairy Management Inc. (DMI) annual meeting held in mid-November.
“Animal Care Version 5 development is underway,” she said. “The work began this August with focus groups involving dairy farmers, veterinarians, researchers, cooperative personnel, and processor representatives on the panels.”
The top Animal Care 5 focus group themes were:
• Pain management
• Fitness for transport in all age classes
• Timely care, treatment, and euthanasia
• Handling and stockmanship
• Animal-based outcomes . . . broken tails and lameness
• Calf management
From that point, a survey was developed to gather a wider range of input. The survey opened up to the greater dairy community for a month and wrapped up on November 1.
“Of the 1,005 survey responses on the upcoming Animal Care 5 version, 65% came from dairy farmers,” Hampton-Phifer went on to say to the audience. “Another 15% came from cooperative and processor representation, and 10% came from veterinarians.
“Timely care of sick cows and prompt treatment ranked highest in the survey,” said Hampton-Phifer as the item earned a score of 2.7 on a 10-point scale. A score of 1 would have the highest priority and 10 would be a low level of concern.
“Lameness, pain management for common procedures such as dehorning, calf management, management of nonambulatory cows, and low-stress animal handling all earned scored ranging from 4 to 5,” continued the stakeholder relations manager for the FARM program. Earning scores in the six range were transport of young calves, transport of cull cows, and euthanasia. Cow-calf separation and broken tails were low level concerns at 8.9 and 9 on the 10-point scale.
As for the next steps?
“There will be monthly Farmer Advisory Council Updates and Animal Care Task Force meetings, Animal Health and Wellbeing committee meetings, NMPF Board of Director meetings, and finally a public comment period in the fall of 2022,” said Hampton-Phifer. Considering the program’s 18-month extension of Animal Care Version 4 due to COVID-19, the goal would be to gain approval by NMPF’s Board of Directors in 2023.
“If this timeline is met, Animal Care 5 would be implemented in July 2024,” said Hampton-Phifer.
Hampton-Phifer invited industry stakeholders to participate in FARM’s upcoming virtual Industry Town Hall on December 14 to hear directly from NMPF staff and program leadership about Version 5 progress. Registration and more information about Version 5 including timelines and memos and eventually a summary of the recent survey can be found on FARM’s website.