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Karen Jordan: Small-herd owner, big-time responsibility

Progressive Dairyman Writer Audrey Schmitz Published on 30 September 2016

Get to know the dairywoman leading the FARM program’s technical writing group

Dusting off a plaque presented by Dairymen Inc., Karen Jordan, DVM, recalled the competition her co-op held for younger dairymen and couples 27 years ago.

Karen Jordan

Little did she know back then that being chosen with her husband, Norman, as the outstanding couple for 1989-90 in the county divisions would lead her to working with the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF).

Jordan is a practicing veterinarian in Siler City, North Carolina, where she owns a large animal veterinary service. Together she and her husband own and operate Brush Creek Swiss Farms with 80 registered Brown Swiss cows. For the competition, judges visited their farm and the couple was asked to give a presentation.

While competing, staff within Dairymen Inc. got to know the couple well. An older veterinarian who had been representing Dairymen Inc. on the National Animal Health and Well-being Committee for NMPF wanted to retire and was looking for another veterinarian to step into his place.

“He asked if I would be interested in being on the committee, and so I said, ‘Well, yeah!’ And honestly when I said yes, I really didn’t know what I was about to get into,” Jordan chuckles. “I had no clue as to all the things National Milk Producers Federation and its Animal Health and Well-being Committee does.”

Since 1992 Jordan has served on the NMPF Animal Health and Well-being Committee and has been committee chair since 2008. She also currently serves as chair of the technical writing group for the National Dairy FARM Program Animal Care Manual.

Throughout her time serving on the committee, Jordan has seen the dairy industry face a lot of animal disease issues such as Brucellosis and Johne’s, as well as national animal identification. As part of the committee, producers were asked to attend meetings and provide their input.

Jordan’s involvement with the committee led her to assisting the newly formed National Dairy FARM Program. The Farmers Assuring Responsible Management Program was created to show customers that dairy producers have a caring relationship with their animals.

“There have been some really good discussions, some heated and some passionate, about the way we have done this program,” Jordan says. “Yet there is still excitement, because we needed this. We needed it to protect our market. We needed it to protect our individual dairy farms.”

Until 2009 Jordan says the U.S. did not have an animal well-being program on paper. For the FARM Program, a technical writing group was formed to create a document to cover the whole nation. The finished FARM Program Animal Care Manual demonstrates dairy producers’ commitment to animal care and shows consumers that they are doing what is right for their cows and for their customers, she says.

“Every one of us are vulnerable to anybody saying we are doing something wrong or taking a video terribly out of context,” Jordan says. “I am excited about the program because now I feel like our farming community has got a better way to tackle those issues.”

When forming the FARM technical writing group, the NMPF pulled certain individuals from the Animal Health and Well-being Committee and reached out to other researchers and leaders concerned with dairy animal well-being.

“It was quite a diverse group. That right there was the strength of the technical writing group. We were able to reach out to other industry folks to help us make sure what we came up with had science behind it and best management practices to support the document,” Jordan says. “I think that is what helped us come out with such a well-written document.”

The FARM technical writing group helps ensure that the FARM Program fosters a culture of continuous improvement and that the best management practices evolve with the latest research on animal welfare and humane handling.

“All of us have the responsibility to look at how we can make this program better by documenting the good things our industry is doing and making sure the program is reflecting the currently recognized best management practices,” Jordan says. “This document is always meant to be a living document. Never to be one-and-done.”

Every three years the document is updated, and continuous improvements are made to it. Jordan has helped with all three revisions of the manual and says the newest version will go into effect Jan. 1, 2017.

“This version three of the FARM Program document has so much work that went into it. The intent is to have a guide that our industry is proud of. Our industry supports and realizes that this manual helps document the good well-being practices and the best management practices we are doing on the farm.”

Jordan says she is proud to have watched the FARM Program develop into what it is today.

“From the people who serve on the committee to the people who were pulled in to serve on the technical working group, it has been an amazing experience to utilize the resources and knowledge base that our industry has as we have developed this program.”  end mark

Audrey Schmitz was a 2016 Progressive Dairyman editorial intern.

PHOTO: Karen Jordan and her husband, Norman, operate Brush Creek Swiss Farms in North Carolina. Courtesy photo.

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