WEBINAR PREVIEW: Building Strong Herd Health Programs

December 15, 2016 | 12:00 pm EST | Watch Here


A strong herd health program emphasizes prevention, rapid diagnosis and quick decision making on necessary treatment for sick or injured animals and is vital to  ensure healthy cows reach their full performance potential. Because every dairy operation is unique, it is important to work with your veterinarian to create a herd health plan. Scott Nordstrom, DVM, director of dairy technical services, Merck Animal Health, will review what is new with Farm 3.0 as it relates to the veterinary-client relationship (VCPR), and developing a written herd health plan for your dairy.


Scott Nordstrom, D.V.M.

Director of Dairy Technical Services,

Merck Animal Health

Dr. Nordstrom specializes in immunology, conducting vaccine research and development for livestock as well as post-approval pharmaceutical and vaccine studies in dairy cattle. He also provides training in the areas of infectious diseases, vaccinology, immunology and diagnostics.

He has played principal roles in researching the Vista® vaccine line and developing the DVM DxTM program. Dr. Nordstrom practiced dairy and equine medicine privately for several years, most recently as a partner in a veterinary clinic in Dayton, Virginia.

In 2001, he joined Merck Animal Health Dairy Technical Services, the team he leads today.


Why is the topic of herd health programs important to the dairy industry? 

A strong herd health program  ensures a consistent level of health care to our cattle, which is vitally important to the dairy industry.  Not only does it encourage the development of protocols for delivering health care, but it also emphasizes continuous assessment and improvement of cattle care on the dairy.

How can a strong herd health program make a difference within the greater dairy industry? 

A written Herd Health Plan, developed in consultation with the dairy’s Veterinarian of Record (VOR), includes daily observations of cattle for injury or signs of disease, as well as protocols to prevent, treat and monitor the incidence of common diseases. It fosters the ability to make quick decisions about animal care and includes training for employees to recognize potential issues, as well as to deliver quality care. This helps to ensure a higher standard of cattle care across the entire dairy industry.

Why should dairy producers care about utilizing a herd health program?

A well-designed Herd Health Program is the cornerstone of a productive herd. It emphasizes prevention and also provides a rapid uniform response to health challenges in the herd. Annual review – or more often as necessary – helps ensure that necessary adjustments are made based on the success or failure of programs and that the newest technology is being utilized.

What do you feel is the most important factor that leads to a quality herd health plan on dairy farms?

A valid Veterinary-Client-Patient-Relationship (VCPR) is the foundation of a successful Herd Health Plan.  Written health protocols, daily observations of cattle and a well-trained team are also important to a successful program.

How will FARM help industry stakeholders raise the bar for industry herd health plans? 

FARM helps standardize cattle care across the dairy industry by providing clear industry standards and expectations .

This webinar is part the of the Merck Dairy C.A.R.E & FARM Animal Care Webinar series. You can view the FAQs and full schedule here.

WEBINAR PREVIEW: Record Keeping & Drug Residue Prevention: An Industry Opportunity

November 8, 2016 | 12:00 pm EST | Watch Here

Increased public pressure around judicious use of medically important antimicrobials and the Veterinary Feed Directive guidelines present an industry opportunity to demonstrate the good work dairy farmers are doing to provide safe food from animals that are well cared for in a healthy environment. In this webinar, Norman Stewart, DVM, MS, manager of livestock technical services, Merck Animal Health, will guide you through adherence to important best practices including ensuring animals are permanently identified and permanent drug treatment records are maintained and easily accessible.


Norman Stewart, D.V.M., MS
Technical Services Manager
Crystal Lake, Illinois

Dr. Stewart has extensive experience in food animal production and clinical practice in domestic and international markets. He provides support in cow and calf health care and reproduction, while also supporting trials on antibiotics, reproductive technologies, biologicals and ectoparasiticides.

He has been instrumental in the development of Merck Animal Health’s Antibiotic and Drug Residue Prevention and Avoidance Awareness Program to increase residue awareness and provide solutions to help the dairy and calf ranch industries combat and prevent antibiotic and drug residues.

Prior to his career in industrial veterinary medicine, he was in a mixed animal practice in Ohio.


Why is the topic of drug residue prevention important to the dairy industry?
Producing wholesome dairy products for consumers to enjoy is a top priority for the dairy industry. Antibiotic and drug residue prevention efforts provide an important opportunity to increase awareness while providing solutions to help dairy farmers prevent residues.

How can proper record keeping make a difference within the greater dairy industry? Monitoring and maintaining an inventory of animal health products and how they are used on the farm is critical to avoiding drug residues in the food supply. Proper record keeping includes important animal health information including vaccination dates, parasite control measures, blood tests, surgical procedures and veterinary treatments, including condition diagnosed and medication used – dose, route of administration, timing and meat and/or milk withdrawal times. This helps ensure the safety of the food supply and maintains consumer confidence in the dairy industry overall.

Why should dairy producers care about drug residues?
It is every dairy farmer’s responsibility to maintain proper utilization of antibiotics and other animal health products on the farm in a manner that is best for the health and welfare of the animals, while delivering healthy food to America’s dinner tables.

Why is proper drug handling important for dairy operations to implement? 
Dairy farmers have a responsibility to themselves, their families, businesses, the industry, their cattle and all consumers to properly utilize antibiotics and animal health products in a judicious and responsible manner so as to maintain animal health while producing wholesome products for consumption.

What do you feel is the most important factor that leads to sound handling on dairy farms?  
Proper training, knowledge and implementation of sound practices by all segments of the dairy and allied industries, be it for handling of animals or the proper use of antibiotics and other animal health products.

What is the most common mistake dairy producers/employees make related to record keeping and drug residue prevention?  
I don’t think there is one, as dairy producers have protocols and procedures in place to prevent residues from entering the food chain in meat and milk. Residue avoidance and prevention is the responsibility of the entire dairy industry and its allied industry partners every day to ensure dairy products continue to be held in high esteem and increasingly consumed by the public.

How will FARM help industry stakeholders raise the bar for record keeping and drug residue prevention?
FARM, in conjunction with strategic alliances, partnerships and stakeholders in the dairy industry, provide the direction and tools necessary to increase awareness and enhance antibiotic and drug residue prevention efforts.

This webinar is part the of the Merck Dairy C.A.R.E & FARM Animal Care Webinar series. You can view the FAQs and full schedule here.

FARMER SPOTLIGHT: Rosy-Lane Holsteins

Pictured: Jordan Matthews, Tim Strobel, Lloyd Holterman and Daphne Holterman

“Let the cow be a cow,” says Lloyd Holterman. It’s a mantra that drives his operation, Rosy Lane Holsteins LLC, to raise healthier, happier and longer-living animals.

“All we do is focus on letting the cow fulfill her natural ability to make milk,” says wife Daphne. As members of the FARM Animal Care Program, Daphne and Lloyd, their family and partners work every day to make sure their 940 cows are treated with care and compassion. With 20 full-time staff, that requires constant collaboration and teamwork.

It all started in 1980, when Lloyd and Daphne began farming alongside of Lloyd’s parents. After six years of work and a two-year break, they returned to purchase the cows and equipment, finally buying the entire 226-acre farm in 1994. Today, they sell high-quality milk that is made into cheese, market genetics from their Holstein herd, and farm 1,700 acres of corn, alfalfa and other grasses.

Lloyd and Daphne are joined by partners Tim Strobel and Jordan Matthews. both worked on the farm as teenagers. Tim has been a partner for 17 years and Jordan for three.

When Lloyd and Daphne aren’t enjoying their free time on their Harley Davidson motorcycle, it’s all about the cows, and they joined the FARM Animal Care Program to instill that

belief in their staff.The farm conducts quarterly animal care meetings for both cow and calf staff, focusing on timely topics and watching videos on how to work “with” the animal, said Daphne. They also bring in veterinarians to help with training.“We hope positive peer pressure works to keep our staff’s animal handling skills honed,” she said. “The three partners who work with animals set an example on a regular basis.”

In addition to properly training the Rosy Lane staff, making sure the cows are comfortable is also vital. They make sure each cow has ample space to move around, and that they’re provided a calm environment from the very beginning of life so that they’re relaxed around people.

“We enjoy watching a calf grow up healthy and turn into a productive milking cow that lives a long time with few health issues,” said Daphne. “We enjoy the opportunity to work together and inspire others to learn about animals and how caring for them can be personally very rewarding.”

But challenges remain, Daphne says one of the toughest challenges is making sure the consumer understands her job and why she does it.

“Farming is an important part of our lives,” she said. “Our families go above and beyond every day to produce healthy food for our consumers.”

WEBINAR PREVIEW: Handling Non-Ambulatory Cattle

November 3, 2016 | 5:00 pm EST | Watch Here

Providing the best care is especially important when a cow goes down due to illness, injury or weakness. Greg Crosley, DVM, is a practicing veterinarian and expert in training dairy employees to understand, assess, properly transport and care for down cows. This webinar will help you develop the skills and a protocol for responding to a down cow emergency.


Greg Crosley, D.V.M.
Countryside Veterinary Service
Cement City, Michigan

Dr. Greg Crosley is one of the founding partners of Countryside Veterinary Service in Cement City, Michigan. He graduated from Purdue University in 1979 and joined the Countryside practice in 1981.

Dr. Crosley has developed skills in ultrasonography, surgery, and sick and lame cow diagnosis and treatment.  He has studied Spanish since 2000 and has been teaching Hispanic herdsman classes since 2005.


Why is the topic of non-ambulatory cattle important to the dairy industry?
Down cows present both economic and animal well-being challenges to dairy farmers.  Statistically, cows that are unable to rise in 24 hours have a less than one percent chance of ever standing on their own again. It is serious and imperative that we do what we can to help the cow rise and when possible, recover.

How can proper handling of non-ambulatory cattle make a difference within the greater dairy industry?
Proper care of non-ambulatory animals is an extension of an attitude of care toward all the animals.  If we can take steps to prevent down cows, while handling those we cannot prevent with a caring and compassionate attitude, our consumers will have greater confidence in the manner in which we produce a quality product.

Why should dairy producers care about the handling of down cattle?
It is our obligation as animal caretakers to do our best to alleviate pain, suffering and perhaps frustration from the animals under our care. Beyond the economic catastrophe a non-recovering down cow represents, there is the future marketing of the dairy product at stake, if consumers aren’t confident in the animal care we provide.  Also, as labor becomes scarce, workers will choose farms which demonstrate better values toward employees and animals.

Why is proper training important for dairy operations to implement?
Three people are required to move a cow that is down, and they need to be trained to know what to do, and how and when to do it. Even though most farm workers have an innate sense of care for the animals they work with daily, sometimes they don’t understand the dangers to cows and themselves from improper handling of down cows.  Quality care in this area of cow handling involves the use of equipment, which is potentially dangerous to cows and people, making proper training important.

What do you feel is the most important factor that leads to sound handling of non-ambulatory cattle on dairy farms?
I believe treating down cows on hard surfaces as an emergency is the single most important factor which will allow the most cows their best chance to recover.  It would also signify that farm management considers the care of down cows to be vital as part of their cow care program.

What is the most common mistake dairy producers/employees make related to   non-ambulatory cattle handling?
It is common to allow the pressure of other obligations to prevent workers from attending to down cows in a timely manner.  The realization that every minute a cow is down on concrete reduces her chances of recovery is often a surprise to people who spend large portions of every day around cows.

How will FARM help industry stakeholders raise the bar for handling of non-ambulatory cattle?
I applaud FARM for bringing awareness to dairy workers in the area of animal care and residue avoidance.  Without question, thinking individuals will desire to follow the guidelines established. Training, both corporate and individual, will reinforce the message to farm workers, and in my opinion, give them a reason to do what they know in their hearts is right.

This webinar is part the of the Merck Dairy C.A.R.E & FARM Animal Care Webinar series. You can view the FAQs and full schedule here.

WEBINAR RECAP: Dairy Stockmanship Skills

The Merck Animal Health and FARM Program Animal Care webinar series kicked off with arguably one of the most important topics related to proper dairy cattle care and well-being: stockmanship.

Dr. Ben Bartlett, DVM, former Michigan State University Extension educator and current livestock producer, shared his expertise on low-stress handling and emphasized that understanding “why cows act like cows” will help to achieve successful and repeatable sound dairy stockmanship skills throughout the entire workforce.

As with any aspect of management, good dairy stockmanship starts with a team approach, proper training and dedicated time to getting it right. “Animal handling is just like swimming. You can’t just jump into the pool for the first time and expect to know how to swim. Stockmanship, like swimming, requires practice,” said Bartlett.

The principle of practice and teamwork doesn’t only apply to the managers and employees but the cattle as well. Animals need to be given time to practice what is expected of them when being handled because, unlike humans, there is no verbal communication available to express expectations. Cow communication begins with understanding the cows’ flight zone, or personal space. Each animal’s flight zone is different but by understanding where and how to engage the zone and points of balance, the animal will move where and how you would like for them to with only minimal verbal communication.

Bartlett also stressed that it will take time and continued training for a workforce, especially those with limited former cattle experience, to learn these invaluable stockmanship skills. Cows form their trust of, and reaction to, humans from their first experiences and do not forget adverse treatment quickly. There is strong scientific support that low stress handling and proper stockmanship skills are not only the right thing to do for the animals’ welfare but also for their productivity and, in turn, the profitability of the dairy.  Therefore, training caretakers to handle cows in a calm, controlled and gentle manner is essential.

Bartlett also provided the three primary reasons why “cows act like cows,” which are critical for caretakers to understand when working with cattle. The reasons ‘cows act like cows’ are because of their anatomy, their instincts/evolution as a species, and their life experiences.

Cows see and hear differently than humans and therefore, process sights and sounds differently. They rely primarily on panoramic vision which only allows them to see the majority of their environment with very limited depth perception. Bartlett used the example of walking without being able to see your feet. Due to this unique vision as well as their evolution as ‘prey’ animals, cattle prefer to follow others, walk into light instead of dark and flee before exploring what danger may exist.

The final, and possibly most important aspect for animal caretakers to take into account when learning proper stockmanship skills, is that of the animals’ experiences. Cattle have great memories and are also able to understand your feelings and body language. Bartlett reminds us that the more positive interactions cattle have with caretakers, the better their memories will be and, in turn, the better they will respond when they are handled in a slow, low-stress manner.

“The goal of sound stockmanship is to establish a long-term partnership between humans and cattle,” said Bartlett. As such, routine training for employees and practice of these skills is essential. Training and documentation of proper stockmanship is also a key area that the FARM Animal Care Program encourages as a best management practice on all dairy farms.

For additional stockmanship training resources, FARM and the Merck Animal Health team encourage the use of FARM Program resource materials that can be found by visiting www.nationaldairyfarm.com.  Additionally, the Merck Dairy C.A.R.E 365 training modules are available at www.dairycare365.com.

This webinar is part the of the Merck Dairy C.A.R.E & FARM Animal Care Webinar series. You can view the FAQs and full schedule here.

WEBINAR PREVIEW: Euthanasia Guidelines

October 20, 2016 | 12:00 pm EST | Watch Here

Making the decision to euthanize an animal is always difficult. Jan Shearer, DVM, MS, professor and extension veterinarian, Iowa State University College of Veterinary Medicine, will review the decision-making process for euthanasia and considerations for selection of method. In this webinar, Dr. Shearer will provide tools and information that can minimize pain and distress in the animal.


Jan Shearer, DVM, MS

Professor and Extension Veterinarian
Iowa State University College of Veterinary Medicine

Dr. Shearer serves the Iowa State University College of Veterinary Medicine as Professor and Extension Veterinarian. In cooperation with Extension Faculty from the Department of Animal Sciences and Iowa State’s statewide network of county and regional extension specialists, he is responsible for the development and delivery of veterinary extension programs designed to meet the needs of Iowa’s cattle industries, veterinarians and the allied agri-business industry. Dr. Shearer’s primary areas of research interest are lameness and welfare issues of beef and dairy cattle. He is probably best known for establishing the Master Hoof Care Program, a training program designed to teach on-farm employees how to properly care for foot problems in cattle. This program acquired national and international attention for its impact on foot health in dairy cattle and was fittingly recognized by the USDA Secretary of Agriculture in 2003 with the Honor Award for outstanding innovation in animal health. He is a Diplomat of the American College of Animal Welfare and serves as a board member and scientific advisor to multiple organizations and dairy operations. He served as Chair of the American Association of Bovine Practitioners (AABP) Animal Welfare Committee (AWC) from 2004 to 2010 and was appointed as the AABPs Alternate Liaison to AVMA Animal Welfare Committee in 2012. He is currently the Chair of the Food Animal Working Group (FAWG) of the American Veterinary Medical Association’s (AVMA) Panel on Euthanasia and member of the AVMA’s Panel on Humane Slaughter and Mass Depopulation. Dr. Shearer has been honored by the University of Florida with the Superior Accomplishment Award (2001), by The Ohio State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine with the Distinguished Alumnus Award (2006), by the American Association of Bovine Practitioners with the Award of Excellence (2006), by the AVMA in 2011 as recipient of the AVMA Animal Welfare Award and in 2015 with the Delaval Dairy Extension Award.  .


Why is the topic of euthanasia important to the dairy industry?
In a “perfect world,” we’d cure all diseases and prevent any possibility of catastrophic injury that might interfere with an animal’s “quality of life.”  But, it’s not a perfect world; “things happen” and not all are good. Euthanasia is one way to assure relief from suffering when medical options have been exhausted or do not exist. 

How can proper euthanasia make a difference within the greater dairy industry?
In many cases, euthanasia is the only practical way to provide prompt relief of uncontrollable animal suffering. It is our responsibility as animal caretakers to have the knowledge and proper equipment to conduct this procedure effectively and with compassion to help assure the welfare of animals.

Why should dairy producers care about proper euthanasia guidelines?
An “unwritten agreement” called the “Ancient Contract” exists to work together for the benefit of domesticated animals and man. We, as caretakers, have a moral responsibility to provide animals with their basic needs – food, water, shelter, protection from predators, medical care as needed, and when the time comes, a humane death. Euthanasia means a “good death.”  When properly performed the welfare of animals is preserved.

Why is proper training important for dairy operations to implement?
Just as important as providing cattle with a high quality of life, is, when the time comes, to ensure a merciful death. Conducting euthanasia procedures correctly, regardless of method chosen, requires training.

What do you feel is the most important factor that leads to appropriate euthanasia practices on dairy farms?
Without doubt, the most important factor in assuring that euthanasia practices are properly implemented on farm is training. 

How will FARM help industry stakeholders raise the bar for animal euthanasia?
Participation in the FARM program provides an opportunity for dairy farmers, managers/herdsmen and veterinarians to consciously evaluate and revise or tweak their euthanasia practices. 

This webinar is part the of the Merck Dairy C.A.R.E & FARM Animal Care Webinar series. You can view the FAQs and full schedule here.


October 6, 2016 | 12:00 pm EST | Watch Here

Top-quality care from trained employees, along with positive human interactions, favorably impacts a calf’s future performance as a milk cow. Liz Cox, DVM, MS, Merck Animal Health dairy technical services veterinarian, will explain good stockmanship practices, colostrum management, water and feed availability, and written protocols for newborn and milk-fed calf management. She will also review handling and movement, employee training and ways to reduce stress during processing.


Liz Cox, DVM, MS

Dairy Technical Services Veterinarian
Merck Animal Health

Dr. Cox dedicates her time to calf health and milk quality. For calf raising operations, she assists in implementation of data capture, management and analysis for herd health decisions. She has developed and executes the use of lung ultrasound in dairy calves to detect respiratory disease and has trained other veterinarians in this technique.

She believes in judicious use of antibiotics and has extensive milk quality laboratory experience including on-farm milk quality labs. Spanish is a second language for Dr. Cox and she enjoys performing training in Spanish to dairy employees.

Before joining the team at Merck Animal Health, Dr. Cox worked in private practice in California’s Central Valley.


Why is the topic of calf care important to the dairy industry?
Heifer calves are the future of a dairy, and bull calves serve an important role of contributing to beef production in the U.S. which makes calf care important.  Dairy men and women always want to challenge themselves to improve, try new technologies and produce a sustainable product for the public to enjoy.

How can proper calf care make a difference within the greater dairy industry?
Focusing attention on calf care will improve the dairy industry by helping to ensure those who care for the calves day to day are well prepared.  As dairies have grown and expanded, so has the need to hire employees from outside of the family.  Many of these employees do not come from agricultural backgrounds and are inexperienced in caring for calves making proper training critical.

Why should dairy producers care about calf care?
Calves are the future of a dairy farmer’s operation.  Heifer calves are raised to become milk cows, and better care when they are young will mean longer and more productive lives as milk cows.  Bull calves are raised as steers and contribute significantly to the U.S. beef market.  Emphasizing calf care will help create a culture where all animals are treated with dignity and respect.

Why is proper calf care important for dairy operations to implement?
Proper care of all of the animals on a dairy is important for their health.  Healthy animals will, in turn, have long and productive lives in the herd. Proper care of all animals on a dairy also protects a farmer’s social license to raise animals and milk cows.  Consumers love the products produced from dairy cows, and want to enjoy their food knowing the animals were raised with quality care.

What do you feel is the most important factor that leads to sound calf care on dairy farms?
Attention to detail is the most important factor leading to sound calf care. Neonatal calves are very strong when they are born, and it is amazing how quickly they will walk and nurse.  That being said, it is also important to remember that calves are babies and therefore more susceptible to disease, extreme weather conditions and dietary changes.  Once a dairy develops protocols and trains their employees to follow them, attention must be given to all the small details in the protocol.  Very minor changes can cause calves to become sick or fail to thrive in their environments.  The best dairy farmers pay attention to the details and train their employees to do the same thing.

What is the most common mistake dairy producers/employees make related to dairy calf care?
It is important to remember the way nature designed calves to be raised by their cow mothers – nursing from a nipple, multiple times a day to meet their energy needs with milk.  Calves are traditionally raised in social environments with other calves and have access to forage from an early age. 

How will FARM help industry stakeholders raise the bar for calf care?
Often we judge good calf care simply by looking at measurable outcomes such as morbidity and mortality.  FARM 3.0 provides guidelines of good calf care with examples of what is expected on our dairy farms, i.e. feeding colostrum, the essential first meal to all calves born.  Of course, this will lead to lower morbidity and mortality in the animals, but FARM 3.0 outlines specific guidelines and expectations for the dairyman, so that improving calf care is based on science and proven practices. Additionally, second and third party audits will also raise the bar, as valuable data will be collected regarding the care of calves indicating where improvements can be made.

This webinar is part the of the Merck Dairy C.A.R.E & FARM Animal Care Webinar series. You can view the FAQs and full schedule here.

WEBINAR PREVIEW: Dairy Stockmanship Skills

September 29, 2016 | 12:00 pm EST | Watch Here

Calm, efficient and gentle animal-handling practices are the goal of every dairy farmer. This webinar, led by Ben Bartlett, D.V.M, former Michigan State University educator and livestock producer, will cover changes that are coming to FARM Program Version 3.0, including documentation of training for all employees with animal care responsibilities in stockmanship and other areas. He will offer guidance on the best practices around handling and moving cattle. Based on established principles of animal behavior, this webinar will address the efficient and humane handling of dairy cattle, flight zones and point of balance. Humane loading/unloading and transportation will also be covered.

Ben Bartlett, D.V.M.
Low Stress Handling & Grazing Specialist
Stocker Cattle and Commercial Sheep
Traunik, Michigan

During his 50 years of raising cattle, Ben Bartlett, D.V.M., has seen the challenges of putting the theories of animal handling into real life practice, and brings his hands-on experience to the art and science of low-stress cattle handling. For over 20 years, he has been teaching low-stress handling techniques with a special emphasis on “why” it will work and “why” it is so important to go along with the “how.” He has taught goat producers in the Virgin Islands, musk ox managers in Alaska, and many large and small cattle producers in between.

Dr. Bartlett received his veterinary and animal husbandry degrees from Michigan State University and retired from MSU as a Distinguished Extension Educator after 34 years of working with dairy and livestock producers.


Why is the topic of dairy stockmanship important to the dairy industry?
The knowledge and practice of good stockmanship or low stress cattle handling will make cattle handling both safer and more enjoyable for both workers and the cattle and critical today, re-new the public’s faith in current farming practices.

How can proper dairy stockmanship make a difference within the greater dairy industry?
Consumers are not willing to buy products they feel were not produced in an ethical manner.  Practicing proper stockmanship across the dairy industry is as important as producing a healthy and good tasting product. 

Why should dairy producers care about dairy stockmanship?
New research has demonstrated that low stress handing can both increase production and decrease injuries to both cattle and people.  Six months after staff training in low stress handling methods, one owner reported significantly less cattle injuries – “Low stress handling really works”. 

Why is proper training in dairy stockmanship important for dairy operations to implement?
Dairy farmers have two kinds of workers on their farms, the cattle and the people who take care of them.  Good stockmanship will decrease injuries and stress for both cattle and workers.  Less injuries and stress means increased productivity and decreased worker and cow turnover.

What do you feel is the most important factor that leads to sound dairy stockmanship on dairy farms?
Low stress handing has two parts; training and practice.  It is vital that all employees, managers, and owners be trained in low stress handling.  As with any skill, it takes practice to execute what was learned and to overcome the natural return to previous ways of doing things.  Both formal training and practice are important for the long-term practice of good stockmanship.

What is the most common mistake dairy producers/employees make when handling dairy animals?
It’s a tie between going too fast and not “listening” to the cows.  Slow is always the fastest way to get the job done.

How will FARM help the industry stakeholders raise the bar in dairy stockmanship?
The FARM program can serve two vital roles. It establishes standards for the practice of good stockmanship, increasing its credibility with the public. It also is the public face of good husbandry of the dairy industry to the consumer. 

This webinar is part the of the Merck Dairy C.A.R.E & FARM Animal Care Webinar series. You can view the FAQs and full schedule here.

FARM EVALUATOR SPOTLIGHT: Lauren Moseman, Maryland and Virginia Milk Producers

First, some background. How long have you been involved in the agriculture – and specifically dairy—industry?

I grew up on a dairy farm in Somerset County, Penn. We milked 77 cows in a tie-stall barn, but expanded to a free-stall/parallel parlor while I was in college. While attending Penn State, I worked at the dairy barns and had internships with Farm Credit and Penn State Extension. I met my husband Mark while at PSU and shortly after graduation, we married and returned to his home dairy in Fulton County, Penn. I continued to work for my parents and brother for a short time until Mark’s family expanded their herd and I joined them as their calf and heifer raiser, which I continue to do.

In the simplest terms, explain to your average consumer what you do as a FARM Evaluator.

As a FARM Evaluator, I visit our cooperative’s farms to do an assessment of their cattle and animal care practices. I not only look at what written standards they might have in place, but I also observe the cattle in their current environment and facilities to see what BMPs (best management practices) are working, as well as what needs improvement. I ask specific questions, but more importantly I spend time looking at what is actually happening on the various dairies. Each dairy has its own unique environment, geographic location and facility set-up that influences how animals are handled and cared for.

Walk me through a typical day as a FARM Evaluator. How many hours does it take?

A typical day can vary. I work part-time so I’ll spend a day every other week or so just making phone calls to set up appointments to do the evaluations. On evaluation day, I have my app on my iPad set up with the farm’s general information already entered. When I get to the farm, I do a little intro and explanation of the program if they haven’t been through it before. We go through the questionnaire and then do a walk-through of the facilities while I’m scoring the animals. I will end by going over both the positives and the things that require improvement or adjustments. I send a participation form and follow-up letter to remind them of anything we discussed, especially those things needing improvement. On occasion I will need to set up an action plan with the dairy farmer with a follow-up date when I return to confirm that improvements are being made.

Hours depends on herd size and time of year. Dairy farmers are more likely to sit and talk, ask questions, and get into detail when it’s not spring or fall, when there is a big push to get crops in or harvested. Smaller dairies (less than 100 in the herd) can be completed in 1-2 hours, while a larger dairy of maybe 5,000 could take 4-5 hours depending on whether all animals were housed at one location.

What are some of the overall benefits of this job?

I enjoy getting to meet so many different dairymen and women, as well as seeing the diversity within the dairy community. It’s truly remarkable to see something done so many different ways, and yet it’s still the same in many ways, too. Every person involved in dairy has a little bit of a different take on things. It’s been very educational for me.

The challenges?

Probably the biggest challenge I face are the logistics of creating a schedule that works when a dairy farmer is at the mercy of weather. You have to be flexible if it has been raining for a week and suddenly it dries up. No one wants to see me, even if I was on the schedule, and I completely understand that.

Tell me about a particularly rewarding experience while on the job.

One of the most rewarding experiences is when I make a repeat visit to a farm and see continued improvements being made. It tells me we are working toward the same goal to do the best job we can with our animal care.

What is one thing you often see during your evaluations that you think could use improving?

There’s one thing we can all do better – communicate. That could be verbal, non-verbal or written. Most people automatically think about this for larger dairies with more employees. They need to be able to share ideas and make changes to procedures in a way that includes everyone involved in a particular area of the dairy. However, even on small dairies with just family doing the chores, there can be miscommunication or inaccurate assumptions. Some dairies tackle this by having a weekly staff meeting or breakfast together to discuss the current situation and needs on their dairy.

As someone who works behind on the scenes, on the farm, what is one thing you would like to tell consumers who are concerned about animal care?

Most dairymen and women put their hearts and souls into what they do, and they work very hard to be good stewards of what’s been entrusted to them. And many farmers put the needs of their cows above their own. I’ve known some farmers who will call a veterinarian for a sick animal before they go to a doctor themselves. Are there farms that still need improvement? Yes and that’s why we work every day to get those farms on board with making the improvements needed to ensure proper animal care practices.