A new effort to provide a centralized resource where Iowans can receive information about appropriate farm animal care was announced Thursday in Des Moines. It's the first coalition of its kind in the United States and is modeled after the 20- year-old Alberta Farm Animal Care program.
The Iowa Farm Animal Care Coalition is designed to answer questions about farm animal care and assist farmers in farm animal care resources to help ensure all Iowa farm animals benefit from the latest science-based animal care standards.
"IFAC was launched by farmers for farmers and consumers," says IFAC Executive Director Denny Harding. "Farmers understand that consumers want to know more about where their food comes from and how it was raised. IFAC is available to help increase public understanding. Until now, there has not been a centralized place where Iowans could go for farm animal care information. Now, they can visit www.iowafarmanimalcare.org and learn more about how responsible Iowa livestock farmers care for their animals or call our help line at 1-800-252-0577 to report a concern if they see something they don't understand."
When a person contacts IFAC with a concern about animal welfare, IFAC contacts the farmer and offers to do an independent evaluation. It's strictly voluntary. If the farmer does not want to participate, he does not have to.
But if he does, IFAC provides access to animal care experts who specialize in many aspects of animal care, including animal science experts and veterinarians from Iowa State University's colleges of Veterinary Medicine and Agriculture and Life Sciences, and the Iowa state veterinarian office at the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship.
This independent group of experts makes up the On-Farm Evaluation Team and specializes in performing voluntary on-site evaluations to ensure appropriate farm animal care is being given. Once an evaluation is completed, the team issues a report to assist the farmer in care of his animals.
"The overwhelming majority of farmers today are doing a great job handling farm animals and have their best interests in mind when it comes to their health and environment," says Dr. Suzanne Millman, associate professor of animal welfare at Iowa State University. "Different species have different behaviors thus requiring different care. IFAC can help provide farmers with the latest in animal care research, while ensuring that appropriate care is being given and answering consumer questions."
"Farmers' names are kept confidential," notes Harding. "But, the data will be tracked."
IFAC has a four-person Advisory Committee including Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey; Animal Rescue League of Iowa Executive Director Tom Colvin; State of Iowa Veterinarian, Dr. David Schmitt; and Iowa State Sheriffs and Deputies Association President, Jerry Dunbar.
"This is a positive step forward, to reach out to consumers and farmers alike, to provide information about farm animal care or just be there with support if a concern should arise," says Colvin. "We're proud to be a part of a proactive solution that helps the animals and the farmers."
IFAC is a collaborative effort that includes farmers from the Iowa Farm Bureau and the Iowa Pork Producers Association, Iowa State University College of Veterinary Medicine and College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship.
"We want to show consumers who we are and what we do," says Greg Lear, incoming president of the Iowa Pork Producers Association. "This is a voluntary program to help consumers understand what happens on farms. The coalition will be able to answer questions and help solve problems when they come up."
For more information about IFAC or farm animal care in Iowa, visit www.iowafarmanimalcare.org or call 1-800-252-0577.