Ryan McMichael, Extension Educator, Agriculture and Natural Resources, Mercer County, Ohio State University Extension
As our society continues to evolve, we can continue to see advancements in technology that leads to increased animal production, farm management efficiency, and a decreased need for the level of manual labor that was needed 30 years ago. While we could speculate how much manual labor on dairy farms will be needed 30 years from now, there will and should always be a commitment to proper animal care and welfare. As farms continue to bring in new personnel in the daily operations, we should train that workforce to uphold the proper animal care and welfare practices on our farms. If your farm doesn’t have a training program setup or perhaps it may need to be updated, there are several resources available to assist farms with their needs.
One of the resources would be to seek out and utilize the information that is already developed by the National Dairy FARM Program created by the National Milk Producers Federation in partnership with Dairy Management, Inc. in 2009. Many of our milk marketers and cooperatives are enrolled in the program and have requirements for their producers to meet the program standards. The program has resources developed in animal care, antibiotic stewardship, environmental stewardship, and workforce development, including videos, handouts, and signage. Many of these publications are developed in English and Spanish to assist with the trainings for a diverse workforce.
The Farmers Assuring Responsible Management (FARM) program has these different resources available for a minimal cost and several have no cost found on their producer’s resources webpage. For example, there is an “Calf Care and Quality Assurance Animal Care Reference Manual” available for $7.60 that covers the topics of calf health, animal handling, and other key management practices. An example of one of the free videos is a short 13-minute video on “End of Life Decision Making: Fitness to Transport”. There are also a series of free Dairy Stockmanship videos that could be used to educate new employees in proper handling. The list of searchable resources can be found on their website located at https://nationaldairyfarm.com/resource-library/farm-program/. Please note that the FARM Animal Version 5 changes were approved in March of 2023 and will be implemented starting July 1, 2024. It is expected that by the end of 2023, resource development will be taking place to update to the changes coming in version 5. More information can be found at their website, https://nationaldairyfarm.com/dairy-farm-standards/animal-care/animal-care-version-5-development/.
Another option for training resources would be Dairy Care365 developed by Merck Animal Health. This is an online library of video lessons, quiz questions, and standard operation procedures that participants can complete on their own and earn a certificate upon completion. The Dairy Care365 complements and helps to fulfill the animal care requirements of the National Dairy FARM Program, Professional Animal Auditor Certification Organization, and various dairy cooperatives and processors. Information can be found at https://www.merck-animal-health-usa.com/dairy-care-365.
The Calf Care and Quality Assurance (CCQA) Program has a developing course catalog that can be utilized to help employees earn a certificate in CCQA by watching videos and answering questions during the lessons. While helping to meet training needs for producers in the Beef Quality Assurance (BQA; https://www.bqa.org/) program, the online modules could be utilized to assist dairy producers looking for resources dedicated for calf health, care, and management. This program is similar to the setup of Dairy Care365 and could be assigned to employees to work at their own pace and submit a certificate of completion when finished. The CCQA program can be found at https://training.calfcareqa.org.
The resources for training new employees or updating existing employees are not limited to those listed above, and producers may develop their own resources or utilize items provided to them by others. Every producer is welcome to contact their local Extension office to see if there are opportunities for local options for their county and area. It is important to remind ourselves that training and updating employees on proper animal care, welfare, and management is only a start; every individual on our dairy operations needs to commit daily to upholding the practices and principles that ensure our animals’ health and wellbeing.
List of Resources:
Farm Animal Care Program, National Milk Producers Federation
Dairy Care365, Merck Animal Health