FARM Biosecurity helps protect dairy’s future

By Miquela Hanselman
Director of Regulatory Affairs, National Milk Producers Federation

Biosecurity may be more top-of-mind than ever in dairy herds in light of how industry practices are changing in reaction to the presence of the H5N1 virus in dairy cows. The National Dairy Farmers Assuring Responsible Management (FARM) Biosecurity Program has resources that can support dairy farmers as they face evolving animal care challenges.

The FARM Program launched its Biosecurity Program in 2021 via a cooperative agreement with the USDA National Animal Disease Preparedness and Response program. FARM Biosecurity builds on the existing FARM Animal Care Program and Secure Milk Supply (SMS) Plan, providing resources focused on protecting cattle and employee health.

The program includes both everyday biosecurity practices as well as enhanced biosecurity resources. The FARM Everyday Biosecurity Program focuses on preventing disease introduction and spread by building on the good husbandry practices dairy farmers have long included in animal care. Everyday biosecurity practices protect against common diseases like contagious mastitis, respiratory infections, and scours.

Enhanced biosecurity brings the practices developed under the SMS Plan into the FARM program. Though FARM Enhanced Biosecurity was developed to help ensure continuity of business during a foot and mouth disease outbreak, the concepts can help protect against other known disease threats, such as the current highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) outbreak in dairy cattle.

Take steps now

We are still learning about how HPAI virus spreads among cattle, with more information expected as testing ramps up and federal agencies begin isolating data patterns. Below are some every day and enhanced biosecurity focus areas that help against the spread of many known diseases in cattle. These measures may also help prevent HPAI virus exposure to cattle and the people who care for them. Great first steps are identifying a line of separation, limiting animal movement as much as possible, using premovement testing, and having logs of visitors, deliveries, and animal movements.

Protecting the dairy from exposure:

  • Minimize access of wild birds to cattle and their environment.
  • Manage movements of cattle and their transport.
  • Limit livestock contact to essential people.

Preventing cattle or calf exposure:

  • Avoid feeding raw colostrum or milk to calves, cattle, and other mammals.
  • Follow good milking practices.
  • Separate new or returning animals and isolate sick animals.
  • Sanitize milking equipment after use with new, returning, or sick cattle.

Precautions for animal caretakers:

  • Avoid consuming unpasteurized (raw) milk and cheeses from suspect or confirmed HPAI cattle.
  • Wear protective gear covering the eyes, nose, mouth, and hands when contacting infected animals, carcasses, milk, or manure.

The enhanced biosecurity prep guide and online training include key biosecurity concepts that can be used during the H5N1 outbreak.

Good biosecurity takes time and practice to be effective, but as current challenges show, more attention to it will be critical to our industry today and tomorrow. Building everyday practices into your routine and having an enhanced biosecurity plan can protect your animals, employees, and business from disease threats.

Visit to learn more about biosecurity and access resources, and visit for the latest updates on HPAI in cattle.

This column originally appeared in Hoard’s Dairyman Intel on June 3, 2024.

NMPF Awarded USDA Grants to Advance Dairy Industry Disease Preparedness

The National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) today was awarded funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service National Animal Disease Preparedness and Response Program (NADPRP) supporting two projects advancing dairy cattle disease preparedness.   

The first award will expand on USDA funding NMPF received in 2021 to build the National Dairy Farmers Assuring Responsible Management (FARM)Biosecurity Program. FARM Biosecurity provides dairy farmers with the tools to protect the health of their herds and employees from everyday and foreign animal diseases. Biosecurity resources developed from the initial 2021 USDA funding are currently being used to respond to the H5N1 animal health issue.  This new funding will expand educational resources and training opportunities for producers, cooperatives, state animal health officials and FARM Program evaluators; update the Secure Milk Supply Plan guidance and further develop the capabilities of the FARM Biosecurity database. 

The second award will bring together stakeholders including dairy cooperatives, milk haulers, milk testing labs, state and federal animal health officials and National Animal Health Laboratory Network (NAHLN) lab directors to conduct a gap analysis and create a report outlining current capabilities and guidance for industry and policymakers to implement a foot-and-mouth disease diagnostic assay using bulk tank milk samples to provide herd-level disease surveillance in the event of an outbreak. 

“USDA funding for continued enhancement of biosecurity on dairy farms for emerging and foreign animal diseases arrives at a time when the dairy industry is already using USDA-funded resources to address the challenges of H5N1,” Gregg Doud, president and CEO of NMPF, said. “This ongoing collaboration between USDA and NMPF is building resiliency for the U.S. dairy industry now and for the future.” 

The grants are funded by the 2018 Farm Bill as part of an overall strategy to help prevent animal pests and diseases from entering the United States and reduce the spread and impact of potential disease incursions through advance planning and preparedness. USDA has funded the NADPRP projects with the goal of individually and collectively addressing critical livestock biosecurity, large-scale depopulation and carcass disposal concerns in all major livestock industries across all U.S. regions. NMPF will apply the grant funding to advance biosecurity and diagnostic testing capabilities to support animal health on dairy farms by partnering with stakeholders and experts, including dairy farmers, veterinarians, dairy cooperatives and processors, NAHLN laboratories, Preventalytics LLC, and state and federal animal health officials. 

NMPF’s Yeiser Stepp Talks Biosecurity Best Practices

Emily Yeiser Stepp, Executive Director of the National Dairy Farmers Assuring Responsible Management (FARM) Program, discusses best practices in biosecurity as dairy farmers navigating a new federal order on testing and interstate animal movement in an interview with the National Association of Farm Broadcasters. “We still don’t know a lot about this virus and are taking action to limit that risk of virus spread, not only to protect our own dairy herds but also those poultry facilities that are being impacted, as well as protecting our dairy workers,” Yeiser Stepp said.

NMPF Welcomes Cordova to Staff, Ganley to Joint Economics Team

NMPF gained a new employee in April, and its Joint Economics Team with the U.S. Dairy Export Council also gained a new team member from the USDEC side, adding more expertise to the team’s coordinated efforts for dairy.

Jessi-Ryah Cordova joined NMPF as its FARM Program Communications Coordinator on April 22. The 2023 graduate of California Polytechnic State University-San Luis Obispo earned a bachelor’s degree in Agricultural Business. During her time at Cal Poly she worked at its Dairy Unit as a Business Assistant, milking cows and managing communication and administrative efforts.

Most recently, Cordova worked as a sales representative for Farmers Business Network connecting with farmers across the U.S. & Canada.

Ganley, Senior Director of Global Trade Analysis for the U.S. Dairy Export Council, is the newest member of the joint NMPF/USDEC economics team. Her role includes analyzing and forecasting global dairy markets to identify opportunities for U.S. dairy exporters and ways to grow demand for dairy products around the world.

Ganley has spent her entire career in dairy, food, and agriculture. Before joining USDEC earlier this year, she held roles with Leprino Foods, PepsiCo Foods, and most recently her consultancy Quarterra. She is based in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

FARM Biosecurity Program Outlines HPAI Prevention and Security

The National Dairy Farmers Assuring Responsible Management, or FARM Program, is the U.S. dairy’s on-farm national social responsibility program. One of its important parts is on-farm biosecurity. Emily Yeiser-Stepp, executive director of the National Dairy FARM Program, says biosecurity is more important than ever after the recent outbreak of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza in dairy cattle herds

FARM Prepares for Workforce Development Updates, Launches Sustainability Resource

The National Dairy FARM Program is preparing for version updates and new resources across multiple program areas. The FARM Workforce Development (WFD) Program made strides in March toward its evaluation tool Version 2 updates, and the FARM Environmental Stewardship (ES) Program launched a new database for sustainability resources.

The NMPF Board of Directors in March approved minor adjustments to the FARM WFD evaluation tool. The evaluation is restructured to better group questions of similar themes and contains seven additional questions to further strengthen the evaluation. The updated evaluation, FARM WFD Version 2, will launch July 1. FARM will offer updated trainings and resources for FARM evaluators and farmers who participate in the program.

The voluntary FARM WFD evaluation addresses best management practices that can enhance HR and safety management. Dairy cooperatives and processors can use the program to provide customer assurances around farm-level labor topics.

FARM ES published a comprehensive database of funding opportunities and sustainability resources for dairy producers. It was developed with support from SCS Consulting and is available for free on the FARM Program website. The library contains financial resources, including grants, cost-share, loan programs and other incentives.

Users can navigate through government, nonprofit, extension, state planning tools and other resources via filters by state, level of funding assistance, type of assistance, etc. The FARM Program will continue to incorporate new features throughout the year.

FARM Program Launches New Look, Features for Database

The FARM Program launched a new user interface for its database Feb. 20.

The FARM database is used by FARM Program evaluators and participant managers to conduct evaluations and track farm progress over time within the FARM Program Areas. The new database features allow FARM Program evaluators and managers to navigate dashboards more easily as well as manage certifications, farm data and action plans. A new search feature with enhanced filtering options streamlines users’ ability to find information.

FARM will host Zoom demo sessions for evaluators and managers to walk through the new site navigation and have their questions answered in real-time. FARM database users can access the database with their existing login credentials.

Overcoming challenges is what we do

By Randy Mooney, Chairman, NMPF Board of Directors

We’ve had a lot of achievements this year, but it’s also been a challenging time.

A year ago, costs on the farm were extremely high, but we had prices that would cover that. This year, costs are still high, but prices are down. That’s a lot of stress on the farm. And we’re also dealing with problems that we’ve dealt with for years.

There are labor problems; you just can’t find anybody to work. Supply chain disruptions are closer to the farm this year. It’s milk trucks getting milk off the farm; it’s feed trucks bringing feed into the farm. It’s getting simple parts that we took for granted we could get anytime we wanted to. There are geopolitical issues and extreme weather events.

We have challenges all the time, but it just seems like we continue to have more. It seems like we’re in the eye of a storm. But as farmers, we always anticipate a moment before the dawn, before things turn, before things get good again.

One of the things I’ve learned is that a lot of the world is envious of what we have.

They’re envious because we have the Farmers Assuring Responsible Management (FARM) Program, a self-governing program. We have a government that recognizes what we’re doing with sustainability — it’s not being mandated down from the top.

We’re taking care of our own. Today, we produce more milk using fewer and fewer natural resources. We’re revitalizing rural communities. For every dollar generated in dairy farming, it turns over three to seven times in local communities, generating $750 billion in the United States. That‘s pretty impressive.

We’re nourishing families around the world through milk’s unbeatable nutritional value. I’ve dairy farmed for a long time, through good times and bad times, but there’s never been a time that I haven’t laid my head down on my pillow at night and been proud of what I accomplished on my farm. We’re putting the most nourishing, most nutritious product known to man in that milk tank. And when that truck leaves, I know I’ve done something good.

Our ability to evolve how we work and adapt our resiliency is becoming more and more important. This year, we came together as an industry to unite around issues that helped build that resiliency. NMPF worked with member co-ops, farm bureaus, and state dairy organizations to come to consensus on the most substantial issues. Even going back to 2021, when you talk about Federal Milk Marketing Order modernization, we’ve worked hard to get these things done. Nobody knows what the outcome’s going to be, but you telling your story has made a difference.

Beyond that, we’re going to get a farm bill passed — we’re going have an extension. We’ve been working to implement the next version of FARM, FARM 5.0, that goes into effect in July. We also will work on promoting dairy’s sustainable nutrition. Dairy offers the most complete nutritional package available, and what’s amazing is that as we produce more milk, we’ll continue to use fewer natural resources. That’s the definition of sustainable nutrition.

For years, we’ve talked about sustainability in terms of environmental stewardship and how that translates into financial value for farms. Now, the financial values are there. You take solar panels, wind, methane digesters, and a lot of things happen on a farm that’s generating electricity to run your farms and to run your neighbor’s households. We’re there now. What we need is conservation funding in the farm bill through USDA grants through state and federal programs. There’s real money available to help us continue to do that, and we will.

No imitation food from a nut, a bean, or grain can hold a candle to dairy’s nutritional package. We all know that. That’s why it’s important to keep fighting the fight on plant-based alternative labeling. In the guidance that was issued earlier this year, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recognized and admitted that plant-based alternatives are nutritionally inferior to real dairy.

Dairy protein plays a critical role in feeding people around the world, and it can’t be replaced by alternatives, including plant-based. Consumers have the right to understand how they’re nourishing their families, and we’re going to continue to advocate for the Dairy PRIDE Act to try to get that passed in Congress.

We’re going to continue to fight for more flavored milk in schools and higher fat levels, especially for those children whose main source of nutrition is through the school milk program. Milk is essential to their diets, and we’re not going to give up that fight. We’re all part of an industry that’s doing remarkable things. We are winning.

This has been adapted from Chairman of the NMPF Board of Directors Randy Mooney’s speech at the National Milk Producers Federation annual meeting in Orlando, Fla., on Nov. 14, 2023. This column originally appeared in Hoard’s Dairyman Intel on Nov. 22, 2023.

Doud, Kappelman Speak; FARM Reaches Out; and YCs Promote Diverse Farmers at World Dairy Expo

NMPF’s incoming CEO and a member of its executive committee shared their insights on agricultural policy, while the FARM Program connected with producers and the National Young Cooperators (YC) Program promoted young and diverse dairy farmer voices at the World Dairy Expo.

Current NMPF Chief Operating Officer Gregg Doud and Pete Kappelman of Land O’Lakes discussed the prospects for farm bill passage and the ins and outs of federal risk management programs on a panel at Expo on Oct. 5. Meanwhile, the National Dairy FARM Program connected with farmers and industry leaders through its booth at the trade show all week and hosted an informational session the same day.

The FARM Program’s presence at World Dairy Expo each year offers an opportunity for FARM Program staff to share program updates face-to-face, and to receive feedback from producers and FARM Program evaluators. This year, FARM staff shared important updates about the upcoming Animal Care Version 5 launch next July, upcoming changes to Environmental Stewardship in Version 3, details about the recent FARM Biosecurity — Enhanced Program, the impact of the Workforce Development Program, and participation data across all program areas.

The YC Program hosted a panel discussion facilitated by Uplevel Dairy Podcast’s Peggy Coffeen, “The Eight Questions that Will Move Your Dairy Farm Forward,” on Oct. 5 at the World Dairy Expo in Madison, WI. Three young dairy farmer leaders participated in the panel including Wisconsin dairy farmers Paul Lippert, a Foremost Farms member owner, Laura Raatz, a Land O’Lakes, Inc. member owner, and Nathan Wiese, a member owner of Farm First Dairy Cooperative.

Panelists discussed how they are positioning themselves for long-term success by answering eight key questions related to culture, sustainability and profitability. More than three dozen YCs from seven member cooperatives participated in the session and reception later that day.

The National YC Program co-hosted a Tanbark Talk the next day with the Dairy Girl Network exploring the leadership challenges women encounter as they navigate careers in the dairy industry and prepare for future success. The conversation was facilitated by the Dairy Girl Network’s Laura Daniels and panelists included Lorilee Schultz, a Prairie Farms member owner and chairperson of the National YC Program, Julie Mauer, a Land O’Lakes Inc. member owner, Dairy Farmers of America’s Mary Knigge and Rita Vander Kooi, an Associated Milk Producers Inc. member owner.

FARM Program Area Updates Underway

  • Finalized recommendations for FARM Animal Care standards and received NMPF Board of Directors approval
  • Expanded reach of the Calf Care Quality Assurance Program
  • Developed online training for FARM Enhanced Biosecurity to be made public in October
  • Conducted testing on select farms nationwide to further development of the RuFaS model for Environmental Stewardship

The National Dairy Farmers Assuring Responsible Management (FARM) Program has refined and grown its Animal Care, Workforce Development 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.

All FARM program area standards are revised every three years to reflect the most current science and best management practices within the dairy industry. For the FARM Animal Care Program, the Animal Care Task Force and NMPF’s Animal Health and Well-Being Committee worked closely with program staff throughout 2021 and 2022 to develop recommendations for Animal Care Version 5, leading to votes in March and June 2023 by the NMPF Board of Directors approving the recommended revisions. The FARM Program staff is updating all resources and materials related to the Animal Care Program—including manuals, handbooks, preparation guides, Evaluator training materials, templates and posters—ahead of the July 1 effective date.

Additionally in Animal Care, FARM continued to grow the Calf Care Quality Assurance program efforts. This initiative is jointly led by National Cattlemen’s Beef Association’s Beef Quality Assurance Program with support from the Dairy Calf & Heifer Association and Veal Quality Assurance. CCQA in the past year has released calf-care specific employee training modules and in-person courses offered in both Spanish and English. Over the two-year lifespan, more than 1,200dividuals have become CCQA certified. In progress is an audit tool specifically for facilities without lactating animals but raising calves with dairy genetics. More information can be found at

The FARM Biosecurity Program this year has further developed Enhanced Biosecurity, in collaboration with Danelle Bickett-Weddle of Preventalytics LLC, through a cooperative agreement with U.S. Department of Agriculture National Animal Disease Preparedness and Response Program, to accompany the Everyday Biosecurity Manual and suite of materials made available in 2022. Enhanced Biosecurity incorporates elements of the Secure Milk Supply Plan into a voluntary continuity-of-business plan built for the entire chain of movement of milk from farm to processing plant should a Foot and Mouth Disease outbreak occur in the United States. Enhanced Biosecurity training developed over the course of 2023 is set to launch in early October.

FARM Environmental Stewardship (ES) and the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy (IC) are collaborating to update the scientific model that powers FARM ES, through work with the Ruminant Farm Systems (RuFaS) model, an initiative involving researchers across the country. FARM convenes a bimonthly working group including dairy farmers, cooperative/processor staff and members of the industry to collect stakeholder feedback throughout the development process.

FARM also facilitated direct industry participation in the scientific process by supporting recruitment of 20+ volunteer farms representing a variety of sizes, geographies, and productions styles to participate in scientific model validation. FARM, in collaboration with the IC Environmental Research team, trained FARM ES evaluators to support the volunteer farms. The on-farm model validation will generate valuable feedback to help build out FARM ES V3 output reports, evaluator training, and other resources. The evolution to FARM ES Version 3.0 will enable dairy co-ops and processors to better address customer requests while offering more insights to farmers. More information on FARM ES Version 3.0 is here.

FARM Workforce Development Version 2.0 will launch next July, with minor updates expected to the evaluation tool. The FARM Workforce Development Task Force met in April and discussed possible adjustments to the evaluation for Version 2.0, including streamlining evaluation questions and adding ones that further highlight practices that promote a culture of safety. The Task Force will convene again later this year to review draft modifications to the evaluation tool for Version 2.0.

Version 5 Furthers FARM Animal Care Standards

By Beverly Hampton Pfifer, Senior Director, FARM Animal Care

The National Dairy FARM Program has evolved over the years to become a rigorous on-farm quality assurance program and trusted industry risk mitigation tool that gives the supply chain the confidence it needs to enthusiastically support dairy despite activist pressure and misinformation. Soon-to-come updates to FARM Animal Care are designed to strengthen that assurance, spotlighting dairy farmers’ stewardship of their herds and leadership in best practices.

The return on investment the FARM Program offers dairy comes from the value dairy wholesalers and retailers find in it, proving the great work dairy farmers are doing while identifying those in need of mild to major corrective action. From January 1, 2020, to July 1, 2023, 72% of the U.S. dairy industry was evaluated under FARM Animal Care Version 4. FARM captures farmers’ excellence within cow Animal Care evaluation questions, which illustrate high standards and continuous improvement. Examples include 96% compliance with body condition standards, 94% compliance with locomotion scores, and 94% and above compliance on focus areas of calf care, non-ambulatory animals, euthanasia, and fitness to transport decisions.

These results give the dairy industry verifiable data to elevate supply chain confidence. That’s also why it’s important for program expectations to remain current and relevant. Over the past two and a half years, the FARM Program has worked closely with more than 85 individual farmers serving on governing committees as well as numerous veterinarians, cooperative and processor staff, and animal scientists to review more than 300 comments submitted during a six-week public comment period to ensure that the Animal Care standards are supported by the latest dairy industry science and offer appropriate and useful best management practices for producers on all types of dairies. The resulting Animal Care Version 5 standards, approved by the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) board of directors in June, make small refinements that aid in the industry’s commitment to continuous improvement.



Changes captured in FARM Animal Care Version 5, which goes into effect July 1, 2024, include:


Current standard: At least 95% of the lactating herd scores 2 or less on the FARM locomotion scorecard.

Version 5 standard: Maintain the above standard and add that 85% or more of the lactating herd scores 1 or less on the FARM locomotion scorecard.

Pain mitigation for disbudding

Current standard: Pain mitigation for disbudding is provided.

Version 5 standard: Maintain the above standard, but the timeline for correction, if the standard is not met, has been shortened from three years to a maximum of nine months.

Disbudding method

Current standard: *None specified*

Version 5 standard: Calves should be disbudded with caustic paste or cautery.

Colostrum feeding

Current standard: Preweaned calf protocols and practices must demonstrate that preweaned calves are provided sufficient quality and quantity of colostrum or a colostrum replacer within six hours after birth, even if immediately transported off the farm.

Version 5 standard: Maintain the above standard with more clearly defined expectations. Preweaned calf protocols and practices must demonstrate that preweaned calves are provided sufficient quality (such as by visual observation or a colostrometer), and quantity of colostrum or a colostrum replacer (10% of birth weight) or there must be evidence of successful transfer of passive immunity within six hours after birth, even if immediately transported off the farm.

Continuing education

Current standard: There is job-specific continuing education for nonfamily employees with animal care responsibilities in stockmanship/handling, preweaned calf care, nonambulatory animals, euthanasia, and determining animals that are fit for transport.

Version 5 standard: Maintain the above standard, but the timeline for correction if the standard is not met has been shortened from three years to a maximum of nine months.


Current standard: Euthanasia protocols and practices identify a primary and secondary individual for euthanasia implementation.

New standard in Version 5: Euthanasia protocols and practices demonstrate the method of confirmation of death.

For more details about the National Dairy FARM Program or the upcoming Animal Care Version 5 standards, visit

This column originally appeared in Hoard’s Dairyman Intel on August 21, 2023.

FARM Excellence Awards Nominations Deadline Approaches

The National Dairy Farmers Assuring Responsible Management (FARM) Program Excellence Awards are back for their third year. The awards recognize farms and evaluators who demonstrate excellence in their engagement with the FARM Program in four categories: Animal Care & Antibiotic Stewardship, Environmental Stewardship, Workforce Development and FARM Evaluator.

Farms or FARM evaluators can self-nominate or be nominated by fellow dairy farmers, members of their communities, extension, cooperative or processor staff, or veterinarians. Nominations are open until 11:59 p.m. PDT on Aug. 1 and should be submitted using the online form on the FARM website.

Nominated farms must have a current FARM Program evaluation in the respective category area and be in good standing with the program. Nominated evaluators must be FARM Program certified in any of the program areas as of last June 1. The awards are judged by a committee of FARM Farmer Advisory Council members and other subject matter experts.

Winners in each category will receive a hotel room and travel for two individuals to attend the Dairy Joint Annual Meeting Nov. 13-15 in Orlando, Florida, where the winners will be celebrated during a luncheon. Visit the FARM Excellence Awards page for more details.