WOOSTER, Ohio — WOOSTER, Ohio — Dairy farmers still have time to weigh in on the proposed guidelines for theNational Dairy Animal Well-Being Initiative.
The initiative, introduced Oct. 4 at the World Dairy Expo, is a producer-led coalition that hopes to provide broad assurance that the dairy industry is looking out for animals’ best interests.
The goal is to boost consumer confidence and demonstrate a commitment to proper animal care.
“It’s making our customers understand what we’re doing with our animals is appropriate,” said Jamie Jonker, regulatory affairs director of the National Milk Producers Federation.
Jonker spoke March 4 at the Ohio Dairy Producers Association conference in Wooster, Ohio.
The key to the initiative is broad principles and guidelines. Many regional organizations already have well-being standards in place and those standards will fit into the general umbrella policy created by the initiative. Having a uniform national policy proves the entire industry’s commitment to animal well-being, Jonker said.
The initiative includes the following requirements:
Animals should always have noncompetitive access to a nutritionally adequate diet and clean, fresh water.
Animal health should be maintained through preventive care programs that include rapid diagnosis and treatment when necessary.
Animal caretakers should be well trained, follow protocols and have access to records.
Housing and facilities
Facilities should provide and promote animal health, comfort and safety.
Animals should be handled, moved or transported in a way that minimizes stress, discomfort or disease.
Third party oversight
Verifying on-farm dairy animal well-being requires third-party oversight. According to Jonker, this oversight gives the initiative authenticity.
“This is something that lends credibility to any animal welfare program,” he said, although he didn’t specify who the third party would be.
The initiative has been in the works since 2005 and more than 60 people have helped shape the draft policy.
According to an explanation in the initiative, this is not a new program with new rules. It’s something that’s going to encompass the animal welfare programs already out there while providing uniform guidelines for the industry.
Once the initiative is finished, producers will be asked to sign a form supporting it and they may be asked to participate in a program that incorporates the initiative’s guidelines. That participation, however, is strictly voluntary.