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DBweekly FARM PROGRAM ANIMAL CARE MANUAL UPDATED Animal care practices revised to reflect three years of experience, input The National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) released a newly-revised animal care reference manual, containing the guidelines comprising the core of the National Dairy FARM (Farmers Assuring Responsible Management) Program. The FARM Program was created four years ago to establish a national, voluntary dairy animal care program to bring consistency and uniformity to the practices used on America’s dairy farms. The original reference manual was used to guide animal care practices on farms enrolled in the program since 2009. This new manual will be provided to those both currently enrolled and those who will become part of the program going forward. “This new manual reflects the continuous improvement process that is a hallmark of the FARM program,” said Jim Mulhern, Chief Operating Officer of NMPF. “It contains important revisions from the first manual, and it reflects both evolving management practices on the farm, as well as expectations for animal care from the entire dairy value chain.” A variety of industry stakeholders provided input into the revision process, and the end result includes findings from the third-party verification process that began in 2011. Among the improvements in the new manual is the overall checklist used to evaluate farms has been streamlined from 77 questions to 48, “simplifying the process for farmers, and more effectively capturing the pertinent information that animal care experts believe is relevant to proper dairy animal care,” Mulhern said. Key changes are in the areas of medical procedures, animal observations and housing.   Medical Procedures • A guideline on horn disbudding was added: Calves are disbudded at eight weeks of age or earlier and with appropriate use of analgesics and/or anesthetics. • Language was added to identify some best practices for disbudding, castration and extra teat removal. • Information is provided on proper branding techniques, as some states require this for animal ID. • Language was added encouraging the elimination of routine tail docking by 2022.   Animal Observations: • The hygiene guideline remains the same based on data collected by the FARM program. The locomotion guideline was changed to only score milking and dry cows. Two other guidelines were added to document practices to improve lameness. • The body condition score guideline was reduced from 10% to 1% of all animals in all pens, because the FARM data showed that almost 98% of the farms in the program met this guideline. A second guideline documents practices in place to improve an animal with poor condition. 8 National Dairy FARM (Farmers Assuring Responsible Management) Program www.nationaldairyfarm.com • The hock and knee lesion guideline was changed to score only the milking and dry cows. The FARM data showed that this is the most high risk group on the farm for this type of injury. • A body abrasion section was added to allow for the collection of data on other body abrasions, besides knees and hocks, looking at all the animals on the farm. The FARM program will review the data collected after three years and decide if a guideline for body abrasions needs to be developed. The scoring system will target animals with an obvious swelling, lacerations or severe lesions of the skin.   Housing: • The housing section was streamlined to remove the separate section on housing types and creating guidelines that can be utilized for all systems by referring to lying areas. Other areas such as feed and water have also been streamlined in this manner to make the evaluation more effective.