Issues: Animal Care

An infant cow is bottle-fed

National Dairy Farm Program logo

“The Dairy FARM Program is an impressive and exciting step forward by the California dairy community. It’s good for animals, good for consumers, and good for our state. It speaks volumes about the importance dairy farmers already place on animal health, safety and well-being.”

Dr. Richard Breitmeyer
Former State Veterinarian of California

A century ago, three of ten Americans farmed. Even those who didn’t live on a farm likely had a close relative who did.

That’s changed. Today, fewer than 2 percent of us farm, and the typical farmer now grows enough food for 130 people. This modern miracle is accomplished thanks to hard work, innovation and advancements in technology. 

But farms of today don’t look like they did 100 years ago. That can be surprising and a little disconcerting to consumers, whose perceptions more likely come from television and movies than reality.

This difference in perception and reality has some asking: Are the dairies of today still farms? Are the people that operate them still farmers? And above all, do they still care about — and for — their animals?

The answer to all these questions is yes. The truth is, dairy cattle receive better care today than ever before. Dairy families have always believed they have a moral and ethical obligation to properly care for their animals.

Actions, not words, are the only way to maintain and build trust with consumers of dairy products. In 2010, dairy farmers across California collectively took a step forward to reaffirm their longstanding commitment to proper care and treatment of dairy cattle by launching the National Dairy FARM Program: Farmers Assuring Responsible Management. FARM includes comprehensive dairy cattle care best practices for nutrition, health, housing, and more, developed by animal scientists, veterinarians, and dairy farmers; evaluation of individual dairies to assess compliance with best practices; and independent, third-party program verification.

FARM allows dairies to systematically verify responsible practices while building consumer confidence in America’s dairy products and the families that produce them. In rare instances when animal care may not be up to standards, FARM provides methods to identify and address issues.

Dairy Cares coalition members will provide an added boost to the FARM program here in California by supporting continuing education workshops in animal care and development of improved training tools for individual dairy farmers through the California Dairy Quality Assurance Program.

California dairy families do care about their animals — and they want to make sure that everyone is aware of the many efforts made daily to accomplish excellent animal care, while still producing the affordable, high-quality, and nutritious dairy products consumers continue to expect from them.