MU dairy specialists offer help with FARM revisions

  • Published: Thursday, Dec. 19, 2019

COLUMBIA, Mo. – University of Missouri Extension veterinarian Scott Poock reminds dairy producers that the latest version of the Farmers Assuring Responsible Management (FARM) program goes into effect Jan. 1, 2020.

The National Milk Producers Federation, which includes most of the dairy cooperatives in the United States, oversees the program. Farmer feedback guided the fourth change in FARM animal welfare policies after a rigorous 16-month review period, Poock said.

The new version strengthens oversight in dairies to promote good animal welfare in dairy operations, he said. “Dairy producers, including those at MU’s Foremost Dairy Research Center, are committed to quality care of cows. These new guidelines underscore the dairy industry’s ongoing commitment to continually improving animal care and incorporating the latest animal welfare research. Dairy is a leader in the humane and ethical care of our animals.”

MU Extension state dairy specialist Stacey Hamilton said he and Poock are available to offer guidance to producers on completing required standard operating procedure forms. Poock and Hamilton encourage producers to work with their veterinarians and review templates on the FARM website at NationalDairyFarm.com.

Poock said the update strengthens working relationships between veterinarians and producers. It requires an annual review of the herd health plan by the veterinarian of record.

The latest policy revision also requires annual documented training of anyone, including family members, with direct interaction with the animals. Previously, FARM only required training when an employee was hired. FARM training is available online, through videos and hands-on, Poock said.

Another important change concerns pre-weaned calves. Calves with horns must be dehorned prior to 8 weeks of age with approved pain management. FARM also requires calves to receive colostrum within six hours of birth. Calves must have access to water, as well as milk or a milk replacer, within 3 days of age.

Trained workers must check animals for hygiene, hock/knee score, body condition, locomotion, and broken and/or docked tails. The dairy industry quit the practice of tail docking several years ago, said Poock.

“Down cows and euthanasia are other areas that face increased scrutiny under the new version,” he said. Employees who handle nonambulatory cows now will be required to learn protocols for moving and caring for cows while they are down. This includes isolation from other animals, protection from weather and access to feed and water.

Only trained individuals may euthanize animals. The American Association of Bovine Practitioners and the American Veterinary Medical Association set the criteria and practice for euthanization.

Poock has received Professional Animal Auditor Certification to conduct third-party animal welfare audits to help dairy producers. Producers can contact Poock at [email protected] or Hamilton at [email protected] for more information.

Writer: Linda Geist

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