Leadership often involves taking the road less traveled, and in some cases, it means being the very first to traverse an uncharted path. Such was the case in 2010 when the California dairy community voluntarily announced participation in the National Dairy FARM Program: Farmers Assuring Responsible Management, a comprehensive animal well-being education and verification program.

“It’s nothing short of impressive,” said Dr. Terry Lehenbauer, a veterinarian and director of the University of California, Davis Veterinary Medicine Teaching & Research Center in Tulare.

“A comprehensive plan for providing education and conducting on-farm evaluations was put forth, and in just two short years, tremendous progress has been made.”

Since its adoption, Dairy Cares coalition members have conducted 979 evaluations on dairy farms throughout California, about 65 percent of the state’s total dairy farms. Further progress is expected with more evaluations scheduled throughout the rest of the year.

Designed to verify steps dairy farmers take daily to care for their animals, the FARM Program includes a comprehensive set of animal care guidelines developed by veterinarians, animal scientists and dairy farmers.


Each dairy in the program is evaluated by a trained professional according to the program’s guidelines. The initial evaluation of all farms in the program is followed by a verification process in which a representative sample is reassessed by independent experts.

The future
With many dairy farms evaluated, and more scheduled in the coming months, Dairy Cares members are preparing for the next phase of FARM Program implementation – ongoing periodic re-evaluations, supported by continued education and training offered by the California Dairy Quality Assurance Program (CDQAP).

“Aggregate results from the evaluations will help determine our next course offerings on animal care and well-being,” said Denise Mullinax, CDQAP’s assistant director.

“Dairy families have an excellent track record of providing quality care to their animals. We’re looking forward to putting together this next round of workshops to help them meet their animal well-being goals and responsibilities as they continue to strive for improvement.”

As FARM Program implementation continues, California dairy families remain committed to the values of responsible and ethical care for their animals, while continuing to produce affordable and nutritious dairy products. PD

—From Dairy Cares news release