Dairy farmers to pilot animal care assessment plan

Canada’s dairy farmers plan to draft and test-pilot an animal care assessment model that would help ensure treatment of animals on farms within an accepted code of practice.

Dairy Farmers of Canada said Wednesday it will conduct a pilot program using a draft animal care assessment model (ACAM) being developed through the National Farm Animal Care Council (NFACC).

In the first phase of this pilot program, DFC will focus on "the program content — determining what to assess and the assessment measures to use," based on the DFC’s dairy code of practice.

The ACAM is expected to establish a "consistent and credible process for developing animal care assessment programs that demonstrate adherence to the codes of practice," DFC said.

Codes of practice lay out nationally developed guidelines for care and handling of farm animals and "serve as our national understanding of animal care requirements and recommended best practices," DFC said.

The pilot program and on-farm assessment model content are to be developed with help from farmers, milk processors, animal welfare advocates, researchers, extension specialists, veterinarians and the retail and foodservice sector.

"By bringing together the many stakeholders that share an interest in animal care assessment on dairy farms, we are better able to build consensus and achieve a credible, science-based program that is practical and sustainable for farmers," DFC vice-president Ron Maynard, a Prince Edward Island dairyman, said in Wednesday’s release.

DFC’s code of practice, he said, is "seen around the world as proactive and ambitious. The development of an assessment program is a great opportunity to build on the strength of our code through a tool that will allow dairy farmers to demonstrate our commitment to top-notch animal care and welfare."

Codes of practice by themselves "aren’t an end-point, they’re a mid-point," said Geoff Urton, national lead on farm animal initiatives for the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies, said in the same release. "The codes are providing, with the foundation we have through NFACC’s code development process, an excellent frame."

However, he said in support of an on-farm assessment program, "we need to keep building on that frame to actually provide the assurance that animals are being treated according to acceptable standards on farms."

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