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Caring begins on the FARM

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Dr. John Champagne, Chief of Service of Dairy Production Medicine, visits El Monte Dairy in Tipton, CA. Photo courtesy of Dairy Cares

Veterinarians and dairy farmers implement animal well-being program

This "Success Story in Sustainability" is provided by Dairy Cares.

Art Van Beek was one of the first dairy farmers in the state to voluntarily have his farm evaluated according to the guidelines of the National Dairy FARM Program: Farmers Assuring Responsible Management.

"The process is thorough. It's something we can learn from and it's the right thing to do," said Van Beek, who operates his family dairy in Tipton, California. "We want to show - instead of telling - people that we're raising and caring for animals according to a set of responsible and scientific standards."

FARM includes a comprehensive set of animal care guidelines developed by veterinarians, animal scientists and dairy farmers. Individual dairy farms in the program are evaluated, in-person, by a certified evaluator according to the program's guidelines. Initial on-farm evaluations are followed by a third-party program verification process where independent experts are used to verify results. With the adoption of FARM in 20I0, the California dairy community took a huge leap forward to begin the process of assuring customers and consumers that animals on today's farms are cared for and treated responsibly.

"It's nothing short of impressive," said Dr.Terry Lehenbauer, a veterinarian and director of the UC Davis Veterinary Medicine Teaching & Research Center in Tulare. "A comprehensive plan for providing education and conducting on-farm evaluations was put forth, and in just three short years tremendous progress has been made."

Since its adoption, Dairy Cares coalition members have conducted more than 1,000 evaluations on dairy farms throughout California, about two-thirds of the state's total dairy farms.

"At the outset, the goal was to evaluate one-third of the dairy farms in the state in the first year," said Dr. Michael Payne, a UC Davis veterinarian and director of the California Dairy Quality Assurance Program. "The dairy community not only met that goal, they exceeded it. It's a testament to the value they place on caring for their animals properly."

With many dairy farms evaluated, and more scheduled in the coming months, Dairy Cares members will move into the next phase of FARM Program implementation -continued education and improvement.

"We're committed to getting better and doing what's right and FARM helps us communicate to the public, in a verifiable, statistical manner, the care we provide our animals daily," said Van Beek. "We want folks to know that responsible animal care is an important part of our heritage, as well as our future."

 A pdf of the report is available here.