The National Dairy FARM Animal Care Program: Documenting Continuous Improvement for the Dairy Industry


The National Dairy FARM Animal Care Program, which is administered by National Milk Producer’s Federation and Dairy Management Inc., provides a framework for best management practices of dairy cattle.  Considering that roughly 98% of fluid milk produced in the U.S. is procured by FARM participants (cooperatives, processors, etc.), it’s fair to say that the program functions as an industry standard, even though it is a voluntary program.  What is perhaps most remarkable about the FARM program, is that it has accomplished this level of adoption in just ten years.  When compared to other sectors of the food industry (i.e. slaughter plants, further processing plants, etc.), government oversight of on-farm practices is far more limited.  Third-party auditing on farms, or on-farm verification of compliance with animal care programs, is relatively new compared to the long history of regulations and decades of third-party auditing that are common in many other sectors of the food industry.

The FARM Animal Care Program, introduced in 2009, has progressed rapidly.  January 1, 2020, saw the release of the fourth revision of the program (referred to as FARM AC V4) in just over ten years.  True to the purpose of the National Dairy FARM Animal Care Program, FARM AC V4 includes a number of changes that reflect continuous improvement and progression of the standard.

The full list of progression from V3 to V4 can be viewed by clicking the link : https://nationaldairyfarm.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/Version-3.0-to-Version-4.0-Changes-10.30.2019.pdf).

In addition to the changes to the content of the program, additional features have been added to ensure greater consistency as FARM AC V4 is implemented.  FARM Certified Trainers will now be required to shadow FSNS C&A staff in order to ensure they are calibrated and performing evaluations consistently. The FARM Certified Trainers will then provide training and shadows for participant staff who are responsible for conducting routine monitoring of their member farm sites.  This focus on consistency means the reliability of the aggregate data collected through second and third party efforts can also be expected to increase, providing even more leverage for informing target audiences of the progress charted in the dairy industry.

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