Dairy producers participating in a National Milk Producers Federation program to ensure animal welfare are continuing to improve adherence to the program's welfare standards, a Federation report out Thursday said.
Taken from 8,000 second-party evaluations, NMPF said participants in its Farmers Assuring Responsible Management Program – a voluntary set of welfare guidelines for dairy producers – are adopting many of the best practices the program recommends.
FARM, implemented in 2010, was designed to help farmers demonstrate their commitment to a quality milk supply and animal care, NMPF said, estimating that about 70% of the nation's milk supply is produced under FARM standards.
According to the report, 98% of FARM farms train employees to handle calves with a minimum of stress, 99% of farms observe animals daily to identify health issues for early treatment; 93% have protocols developed with veterinarians for dealing with common diseases, calving and animals with special needs; and 92% train workers to recognize the need for animals to be euthanized.
Despite the stronger adoption rates in many areas, NMPF's report acknowledges the need for additional improvement in the areas of veterinarian-client relationships, and dipping calves' navels post-birth.
The report's findings were developed from 2012 on-farm visits by third-party evaluators employed by Validus Certification Services. The third-party verification for 2013 is currently underway.
"The thousands of data points this program collects on an ongoing basis show that dairy farmers aren't just talking the talk about animal care – they're performing dozens of practices on a daily basis to provide for animal well-being and produce high-quality milk," Jamie Jonker, NMPF's vice president of scientific and regulatory affairs said in a press statement. "Still, we're not yet where we want to be. The journey is continuing."
Animal welfare also includes safe use of drugs and antibiotics
Also at the meeting Thursday, NMPF released its 2014 safe use manual for antibiotics and other animal drugs.
The manual permits producers to quickly review those antibiotics approved for use with dairy animals and can also be used to educate farm managers in how to avoid drug residues in milk and meat.
New in the 2014 edition is a section on multiple drug screening tests, as well as an updated drug and test kit list. The 2014 manual also includes a certificate that can be signed by both a producer and veterinarian to demonstrate commitment to proper antibiotic use.
"With each year, the use of antibiotics and other drugs in livestock is more intently scrutinized," said Jonker. "To maintain consumer confidence, we must show we are using these medicines properly. This manual shows dairy farmers' commitment to using antibiotics responsibly."