Animal welfare is an issue farmers take seriously. As the caretakers of cattle, dairy farmers follow a wide variety of practices to ensure their animals are healthy and safe at all times. Beyond providing the basics of food, water and shelter, some farmers even go above and beyond by providing waterbeds, rubber floor mats, back scratchers and classical music to provide the ultimate environment for cows.
Regardless of how good dairy farmers do, they will continue to be picked apart by those that are anti-animal agriculture. To counter those attacks, dairy farmers must not only continue to uphold their high standards for animal care, but they must document their practices to prove their good intentions to those that question.
This is an excellent article, written by a former NYAAC intern, that talks about one way farmers are addressing public scrutiny.
After the dairy industry made national headlines earlier this month due to mistreatment of farm animals, some consumers questioned all practices that take place on a farm. While the grand majority of dairy producers have always taken exceptional care of their animals, dairymen have found new ways to go out of their way to ensure that ethical practices are taking place. More owners and operators across the nation are designing ethical animal treatment contracts and are requiring employees to understand and sign them before being able to work.
These contracts outline what exactly is expected when working with any cow on the farm and give employees a better idea of the importance of animal care. A sample titled “Employee Code of Ethics” found on the National Dairy FARM (Farmers Assuring Responsible Management) Program’s website states that, “Actions of all people on this dairy, either employed on this dairy or visitors, must conform to the basics of animals care and well-being.”
While some farms choose to use contracts that are broad and general, such as the sample from Dairy FARM, others are including how they expect certain farm procedures to be done to ensure the protection of dairy cattle in addition to stating there is zero tolerance when it comes to animal abuse.
Bill Peck, of Welcome Stock Farm in Schuylerville, N.Y., admitted that ethical animal treatment contracts aren’t something that he has yet done with his farm employees but it is something he needs to do because, “When someone reads a document and then signs it, whether it be in English or Spanish, they immediately take ownership of it. Therefore, they take more responsibility to ensure that the terms are met!”
Even if it is not through having employee contracts, dairyman need to ensure that there is an open line of communication with employees about farm expectations. Whether it be having meetings will all employees to discuss the issue of animal abuse or having posters in the break room that outline expectations, farmers are not only ensuring the safety of their animals, but it reconfirms with consumers that the dairy industry takes the matter of animal care seriously by doing whatever they can to prevent abuse on the cattle in which they stake their livelihood.
The author is a student at Penn State University studying agricultural communications and international agriculture. She was NYAAC’s summer intern in 2013 and works on her family’s Welcome Stock Farm in Saratoga County, New York.