With the recent addition of several major cooperatives in the National Dairy FARM Program (Farmers Assuring Responsible Management), more than two-thirds of the nation's cows will be covered by the industry's animal well-being effort, according to the National Milk Producers Federation.
NMPF started the FARM program three years ago to provide a consistent, national, verifiable means of showing consumers and the food value chain how dairy products are produced.
The number of cooperatives and processors subscribing to the program has continued to grow, and now includes farms producing 70% of America's milk supply.
"Consumers and customers don't expect perfection, but they do expect us to collectively demonstrate our industry's responsible practices and our commitment to quality animal care," said Jerry Kozak, President and CEO of NMPF. "I'm proud of the ongoing progress our farmers are making by working to implement the FARM program's guidelines on their own operations."
Kozak said that even with the increased participation in the FARM program, "We need more farms, more cooperatives, and more companies to commit themselves to this program. The expectations are out there. The questions are being asked. We have to provide clear answers," he said.
In addition to the positive development in the level of participation in the program, Kozak said that the FARM program's guidelines, contained in the National Dairy FARM Animal Care Manual, are in the final stages of an extensive review and revision process. After nearly a year of consultation throughout the industry, with farmers, veterinary experts, and cooperative staff, the three-year-old animal care manual will be revised slightly to reflect the latest knowledge and best practices about proper dairy animal care.
Revisions to the animal observation component also relied on analysis of over 360,000 animal observations collected through on-farm evaluations for FARM program over the last three years.
The five step process consisted of the following:
Step 1: Initial revision and draft by the program's Technical Working Group – animal care experts, veterinarians and other animal health stakeholders – in May 2012
Step 2: NMPF Animal Health & Well-being Committee review in autumn 2012
Step 3: Industry Comment Period in winter 2012
Step 4: Review of TWG recommendations and final revisions by NMPF AHWC in March 2013
Step 5: Review and anticipated approval by NMPF Board of Directors in June 2013
If the NMPF Board approves the revisions in June, the newly-revised manual will be made available on the FARM website at www.nationaldairyfarm.com.