Dairy leaders have launched a voluntary program aimed at keeping California's cows healthy and comfortable.
The program, announced Wednesday, includes education about proper feeding, housing, veterinary care and other practices. It also involves independent certification that the farmers do things right.
"There's more discussion today than ever before about how we raise and care for our animals," said Ray Prock Jr., a farmer near Denair and co-chairman of the Dairy Cares Animal Well-Being Committee, in a news release. "We need to be part of that discussion, especially as our customers and consumers ask questions about how we care for our animals."
The program is a joint effort of Dairy Cares, a statewide coalition based in Sacramento, and the National Milk Producers Federation in Arlington, Va.
The program does not do everything that industry critics want, such as increased access to pasture and reduced cow densities.
But organizers said the program will provide the industry with a consistent set of practices, many of them in wide use. They include:
Adequate feed and water
Watching for injuries and illness and working closely with veterinarians
Protection from extreme heat and cold with fans, misters, windbreaks and other measures
Sufficient room for cows to stand, lie down and exercise
Careful handling during milking and transport
Frequent removal of manure
The guidelines are in a manual published by the national group. It includes an 1885 quote from W.D. Hoard of Wisconsin, who started a national dairy magazine:
"A man's usefulness in a herd ceases at once when he loses his temper and bestows rough usage. ... Remember that this is the Home of Mothers. Treat each cow as a Mother should be treated."
The organizers plan to offer workshops for farmers in the spring. On-farm evaluations will start later in the year, followed by verification by a third party in 2011.
On the Net:
Details on the cow care guidelines are at www.nationaldairyfarm.com.
Bee staff writer John Holland can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2385.