Let’s agree on animal well-being

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The final principles and guidelines for the National Dairy Animal Well-Being Initiative were released at World Dairy Expo last week

“"We are concerned that consumers are losing confidence in the food chain,” says Logan Bower, a dairy producer from Pennsylvania. “Like others involved in animal agriculture, dairy producers have an ethical obligation to care for our animals. With a program like this, we can restore consumer confidence that we are taking care of our animals and maintain our market access."

The principles and guidelines are not an on-farm welfare program, says Charlie Arnot, facilitator for the National Animal Well-Being Initiative. They are a basic, uniform umbrella of well-being principles and guidelines that any on-farm animal well-being program should include.

Animal well-being is becoming an increasingly important issue, and the dairy industry needs to speak with a unified voice, says Arnot.

“Milk marketers can take these principles and guidelines and develop animal well-being programs,” says Joan Behr, director of communications at Foremost Farms. “Customers who purchase products are starting to ask for some type of certification and we want to offer our producers an animal well-being program.”

An animal-welfare program that falls under the principles and guidelines could be part of best-management practices to ship to a co-op, Behr notes.

The coalition, comprised of producers, processors, cooperatives, allied industry, academics, associations and food companies, have been involved in the work of the National Dairy Animal Well-Being Initiative since late 2005. “We want to control our own destiny, not someone else,” says Bower.

A draft version of the Principles and Guidelines was first released in 2007. Since then, it has been under review by various stakeholders across the industry. Comments were compiled and evaluated by the National Dairy Animal Well-Being Initiative Coalition and incorporated into the final version released last week.

Although the final principles and guidelines have been released, the process is far from over.

Producers are encouraged to participate in on-farm animal well-being programs that are consistent with the principles and guidelines, which cover nutrition, animal health, management, housing and facilities, handling, movement and transportation. Participation demonstrates the industry’s commitment to provide for animal well-being and helps ensure consistency throughout the country.

For more information and to view the final principles and guidelines, go to: www.dairywellbeing.org.



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