Version 5 Furthers FARM Animal Care Standards
August 21, 2023
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.
Current standard: *None specified*
Version 5 standard: Calves should be disbudded with caustic paste or cautery.
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.
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 nationaldairyfarm.com.
This column originally appeared in Hoard’s Dairyman Intel on August 21, 2023.