The National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF), with support from Dairy Management, Inc. (DMI), formally launched the National Dairy FARM Program: Farmers Assuring Responsible Management at a news conference during the 2009 World Dairy Expo, unveiling key components of the voluntary, nationwide program designed to bring consistency and uniformity to animal care through education, on-farm evaluations and objective third-party verification.
“Dairy farmers are passionate about the care they provide to their animals. The National Dairy FARM Program takes that producer passion and quantifies it to tell the story of dairy animal care to our customers and consumers,” said Jamie Jonker, vice president of scientific and regulatory affairs at NMPF. “This is a very thorough program that was created with input from all sectors of the dairy industry, including producers, veterinarians and other animal care experts. It includes current best practices, innovations and advances in technology.”
The dairy industry has an excellent track record of responsible management practices, said Jonker. “This program simply offers producers an avenue to demonstrate and validate their commitment to doing what’s right,” he said.
Jonker provided an overview of the program and the National Dairy FARM Program Animal Care Manual, which details best management practices for a variety of issues, including animal health, facilities and housing, animal nutrition, and transportation and handling. The content of the manual is consistent with the principles and guidelines of the National Dairy Animal Well-Being Initiative, which was introduced in 2008.
“Dairy producers should seriously consider participating in this program to combat the misinformation that is flooding the public about dairy on-farm animal care. We have a great story to tell about animal care on our farms,” said Karen Jordan, veterinarian, milk producer and chair of the NMPF animal welfare and technical writing committees, who spoke at the news conference. “We need to speak with a unified voice on animal care in the dairy industry so that consumers have confidence that our animals are well cared for and that our products are safe. The National Dairy FARM Program can help achieve this goal.”
Participating producers will be provided with training materials that include a comprehensive animal care resource manual, a quick-reference user guide, an animal care instructional video, and other educational materials. An on-farm instructor may be available from a producer’s cooperative or other source, said Jonker.
“Once a producer completes the education component, we’ll schedule an on-farm evaluation with a trained veterinarian, extension educator, co-op field staff member, university personnel or others who have completed the program training,” said Jonker. The producer then receives a status report and, if necessary, an action plan for improvement.
Through a statistical sampling, a certain number of participating dairy farms will be randomly selected for third-party verification.
“Third-party verification adds a great deal of credibility to a program that provides a thorough, reasonable and practical approach to dairy animal management,” said Jim Reynolds, DVM, clinician of on-farm clinical medicine, University of California Davis. “It demonstrates to the consumer that our industry is truly committed to abiding by the highest standards of animal care.”
On-farm evaluations will begin in 2010; third-party verification will follow in 2011, said Jonker.
To participate, producers, co-ops, processors and state and regional dairy producer organizations can contact NMPF. Costs of the program are still being determined. Implementation of the program, including cost, will depend on whether participants join the program through a co-op or proprietary processor, or as an individual producer.
NMPF is managing the production and dissemination of technical animal care manuals, producer education and training, on-farm evaluation, and third-party verification. DMI is assisting with communication, specifically to producers and industry, as well as potential communication to the market chain and consumers.
Additional National Dairy FARM Program modules designed to assure the quality, safety and wholesomeness of dairy products will be introduced in the future.