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FARM Program: Refined Animal Care Standards on the Way

September 7, 2022


  • Hosted more than a dozen meetings on updating FARM Animal Care standards
  • Unveiled new FARM Environmental Stewardship questionnaire enabling dairy farmers to better share their sustainability story
  • Provided resources and training to support farmers raising dairy calves through the Calf Care and Quality Assurance program
  • Convened working group to update Environmental Stewardship program

The National Dairy Farmers Assuring Responsible Management (FARM) Program is refining and growing its Animal Care and Environmental Stewardship program areas in preparation for new versions in 2024 as it harnesses the latest science and best management practices with significant farmer leadership, feedback and stakeholder discussion.

FARM’s Animal Care program standards are revised every three years to reflect the most current science and best management practices within the dairy industry. Working closely with the FARM Animal Care Task Force and NMPF’s Animal Health and Well-Being Committee, those committees have been developing recommendations for Animal Care Version 5 throughout 2022, This effort has included over a dozen meetings and town hall discussions to review existing standards, incorporating results from an industry-wide survey into discussion and using other sources of feedback to inform recommendations to improve the program.

The FARM Animal Care Program this year has also co-led an initiative with National Beef Quality Assurance to elevate U.S. calf raiser standards by uniting around key best management practices. The Calf Care and Quality Assurance (CCQA) program was developed with an understanding of the diversity of calf-raising enterprises, being science and outcomes-based while maintaining facility type and size neutrality. CCQA’s animal care reference manual, online modules and self-assessment tool serve as a framework and valuable resource for the calf-raising industry.

FARM’s Environmental Stewardship program area has seen similar growth and development, unveiling a questionnaire that enables dairy farmers to better share their sustainability story. The Conservation Practice Questionnaire (CPQ) is an optional add-on to the existing Environmental Stewardship Version 2 evaluation, reporting dairy farmers’ field and dairy-level conservation practices. After the questionnaire’s pilot, refinement and approval process earlier this year, the CPQ has been fully integrated into evaluations for participating farms.

With the launch of Environmental Stewardship Version 3 on the horizon in 2024, the FARM Program has also convened a working group and is collaborating with the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy to update the greenhouse gas model that powers the program. Work is underway to transition to a “process-based” model through work with RuFaS – an initiative involving researchers from across the country focused on environmental modeling of dairy farms. Shifting to a process-based model offers several benefits for addressing customer requests while offering more insights to farmers and FARM Program participants.