Last week, a producer-led coalition representing every facet of the dairy industry introduced the National Dairy Animal Well-Being Initiative. The initiative is an effort to protect consumer trust and confidence in the dairy industry’s commitment to animal well-being.

The coalition also introduced the first draft of proposed principles and guidelines intended to provide a uniform umbrella of assurance that the industry is meeting its ethical obligation for dairy animal care.

According to Joan Behr, director of communications and employee development at Foremost Farms USA, the goal of the National Dairy Animal Well-Being Initiative is to provide assurance to stakeholders that the dairy industry is meeting its obligation to provide appropriate care for its animals.

“We know there is a growing disconnect between consumers and today’s dairy producers,” she says. “This initiative was developed to protect the high level of trust our industry currently has with consumers by actively demonstrating that we are doing the right thing when if comes to the well-being of our animals.”

Throughout the next nine months, dairy producers will be able to review the draft principles and guidelines and provide input through their co-op or industry association. The coalition will incorporate this feedback into the final principles and guidelines. The entire process is expected to take about a year.

Once the principles and guidelines are finalized, they will help ensure that individual dairy animal well-being programs offered by cooperatives, processors or independent companies provide a consistent level of dairy animal well-being assurance, says Gatz Riddell, executive vice president of the American Association of Bovine Practitioners.

“With this initiative, we’re seeking to provide principles and guidelines that can provide validation to the various programs that already exist and help the industry demonstrate our commitment to animal well-being across the country,” he says.

“This initiative will help us, as producers, control our own destiny by preserving the market access we currently enjoy,” says Deb Reinhart, Gold Star Farms, New Holstein, Wis. “Even though we have a strong tradition of providing good care for our animals, this will validate that we are meeting our ethical obligation and the expectations of our customers and consumers.”

The initiative has been endorsed by co-ops representing more than 25,236 farms and more than 104 billion pounds of milk marketed annually.

For more information and to access the draft principles and guidelines, go to: www.dairywellbeing.org

National Dairy Animal Well-Being Initiative