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1608 PD: Coalition announces final version of animal well-being principles

Published on 06 November 2008

During a recent press conference, Dr. Jamie Jonker, the National Dairy Animal Well-being Initiative’s co-chair for the principles and guidelines committee and director of regulatory affairs for the National Milk Producers Federation, explained the changes between the draft initiative and the final approved initiative.

The additions and deletions from the initiative’s six guiding principles, and commentary about them by Jonker, are highlighted below.

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“As producers, we want a program that can help reassure quality and our acceptable social license to produce milk.”

–Dairyman Logan Bower, Blain, Pennsylvania NDAWI Producer Outreach Committee Member

“What we are trying to do is maintain consumer trust and confidence in the dairy industry. This program will provide the assurance to the rational majority of consumers who want to continue to enjoy dairy products that the industry is committed to doing what is right. We’re not likely to persuade those who have a philosophical objection to the use of animals in food production.”

–Charlie Arnot, CMA Consulting NDAWI Consultant

Management

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To promote animal well-being animal caretakers should be appropriately adequately trained, follow protocols and have access to record systems to meet the requirements of their position.

“This really means, ‘Do your employees have a comprehensive understanding of your requirements for animal care?’ I think we may have see in the ‘gotcha videos’ that came out earlier this year that perhaps the expectations for all employees were not outlined very well. I think that in most farms they are. We need to make sure those expectations are known by our employees.”

Nutrition

Animals and animal groups should always have non-competitive access to a nutritionally adequate diet and clean, fresh water.

“There was concern in the comments we received about what ‘all times’ and what ‘non-competitive’ meant. We actually like to have a little competitiveness in our animals when they are at the feedbunk. Animals that eat more generally producer more and generally last longer in the herd. What does ‘at all times’ mean? Does that mean we would have to have access to water in the holding pen? These were things that we didn’t think were indented with the draft, so through the comments we corrected that and made changes.”

Handling, Movement and Transportation

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All animals and animal groups should be handled, moved and transported in a manner that minimizes reduces behavior modification and the risk of the potential for injury, discomfort or disease.

“This certainly received a lot of scrutiny and discussion both within the drafting group and from the comments that were received.

“It’s not just enough that the animal can walk on a truck at the farm; we need to ensure in the best manner possible that animal can walk off that truck at an auction, walk back onto a truck and off again at a slaughter yard and pass inspection, go through the process and ultimately on to the consumer. Our industry does a very good job of this. We do have occasional incidences. Producers will be able to meet the challenges of any on-farm program in this area. “

Housing and Facilities

Facilities should be designed, constructed and maintained to provide and promote animal health, comfort and safety.

“We do not have one production system. What we need to do is ensure animal health and comfort in these facilities.”

Third-Party Verification

Verifying Assuring on-farm dairy animal well-being requires third-party verification.

“This principle generated much discussion both within the drafting group and the dairy producer community. Verification and auditing may not be that different. Verification is a more producer-friendly term. Auditing brings with it certain mind sets. Someone might think of for example an IRS audit – a painful process.

“This isn’t meant to be a painful process. It’s not meant to designated winners and losers. This is to verify that the program meets the goals it has set out to meet. Our producers want to assure the public that they are doing the right things. 99.9 percent of the time they are.”

Animal Health

The health of all animals and animal groups should be maintained through preventive care programs augmented by rapid diagnosis and treatment when necessary.

“In the draft, we talked about training of personnel in euthanasia. We probably don’t want everyone on our farms trained in euthanasia. We probably want specific people to make the decision of when it is appropriate to euthanize an animal and to have the ability to euthanize that animal in the most humane way.” PD

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