Annually, a nationwide sample of participants is randomly selected for visits from third-party verifiers, a process assuring the observations recorded during the second-party evaluations are valid. Validus Certification Services, an Iowa-based certified auditing company, conducts the verifications.
Every third year, the entire FARM Program is reviewed by a technical working group made up of producers, veterinarians and animal care experts. The program was revised in 2013. The next revision will take place in 2016. This allows for continuous program improvement, and ensures the most up-to-date practices are included.
The FARM Program is now in its second cycle, or FARM 2.0. Results to date demonstrate dairy farmers and the dairy industry aren’t just talking about animal care, but are performing dozens of practices each day that promote animal well-being and produce high-quality milk.
Learning from ourselves
A recent report found 94% of farms in the program train their employees to properly move non-ambulatory animals, and 98% train employees to handle calves with a minimum of stress. In addition, 99% of farms observe animals daily to identify health issues for early treatment; 92% train workers to recognize the need for animals to be euthanized; and 93% have protocols for dealing with common diseases, calving, and animals with special needs.
At the same time, there is room for improvement. The same report found that less than 85% of farms have a valid veterinarian-client relationship, and just 67% apply antiseptic to the navels of calves after birth. These findings help inform where additional focus and attention is needed to raise the bar on best management practice adoption.
As the FARM Program moves into its fourth year, NMPF continues to reach out to processors, retailers and food service companies to increase understanding of the industry’s animal care efforts. The program’s standards have been updated to reflect findings from 11,000 evaluations completed in the previous three years.
In addition, NMPF has updated the program’s website and its FARM Animal Care Reference Manual, which contains the guidelines that are the program’s core.
The updated manual includes input from a variety of stakeholders, and findings from the third-party verification process. The checklist used to evaluate farms has been streamlined, and changes were also made in the areas of medical procedures, animal observations and housing. The manual is available online at www.nationaldairyfarm.com, along with a Quick Reference Users Guide and animal care videos. All are presented in Spanish as well as English.