WEBINAR PREVIEW: Emerging Issues

February 9, 2017 | 12:00 pm EST | Watch Here

The roster of standard operating procedures and recommended practices on dairy farms is evolving, shaped by new technology, new science, and practical experience. What is new is that this evolution is increasingly driven by both measurable animal welfare outcomes and by societal pressures about what is acceptable, as expressed by the clear and unequivocal expectations of our customers. The trust previously granted to farmers has been eroded, in part, by a continued barrage of coordinated campaigns promulgated by animal rights groups. Dr. Jamie Jonker will discuss a variety of issues from polled genetics to dam-calf separation to antibiotic-use which are emerging issues identified by our consumers, customers, advocacy groups, and regulators.


Jamie Jonker, PhD
Vice President, Sustainability & Scientific Affairs, NMP
Washington, D.C.

In his current role, Jamie has general responsibilities in sustainability and scientific affairs, including animal health and welfare, animal biotechnology, dairy farm bio-security, dairy farm air and water quality, dairy farm sustainability, and technical service issues.  He is also involved in coordinating relations with the Federation’s Animal Health & Wellbeing Committee and Environmental Issues Committee. Dr. Jonker is active representing the Federation on numerous national and international committees, including the U.S. Animal Health Association (USAHA), the International Dairy Federation (IDF), the World Animal Health Organization (OIE), Codex Alimentarius (Codex), the Sustainability Council of the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy, and the Institute for Infectious Animal Diseases (IIAD).  He serves on the U.S. Animal Health Association Board of Directors. He serves as Chair of the IDF Standing Committee on Farm Management, Past-Chair of the IDF Expert Group on Animal Feeding, and is additionally a member of the IDF Standing Committees on Animal Health and Welfare, Residues & Chemical Contaminants, Environment and Task Force on Antimicrobial Resistance.  Dr. Jonker has also served on the IDF Delegations to the Codex Committee on Residues of Veterinary Drugs, the Codex Ad Hoc Intergovernmental Task Force on Animal Feeding, and the Codex Ad Hoc Intergovernmental Task Force on Antimicrobial Resistance. Jamie received his B.S. degree and M.S. degree from Cornell University, and his Ph.D. from the University of Maryland.  Prior to joining NMPF, his career included 6 years of experience in agricultural policy including service at the National Academy of Sciences, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Agriculture.


Why is the topic of emerging issues important to the dairy industry?
It is critical to understand what upcoming pressures that the dairy industry will need to prepare for in the future. Many of these emerging issues have the ability to have a significant impact on what we do to effectively manage our dairy farms.

How will these emerging issues make a difference within the greater dairy industry?
These emerging issues have the potential to make a significant difference in the day to day management of our dairy operations. In each of these issues, NMPF and FARM are proactively engaging in conversations to steer them in the appropriate directions to advocate for the dairy farmer.

Why should dairy producers care about the emerging issues?
The emerging issues that will be discussed will have a direct impact on dairy producers and have the possibility of affecting their ability to have a continued milk market in the future. These issues will challenge producers to think outside of the box and identify ways to potentially adapt and address some of these areas on their operation.

How will FARM help industry stakeholders proactively address emerging issues?
As FARM interacts with all industry stakeholders, strategic planning will take place so that the entire dairy community is not only aware but can be proactive to address issues in order to better position the dairy industry into the future with a secure, vibrant milk market.

This webinar is part the of the Merck Dairy C.A.R.E & FARM Animal Care Webinar series. You can view past webinars here.

WEBINAR PREVIEW: Preparing for the Unexpected

January 26, 2017 | 12:00 pm EST | Watch Here

Preparation is the key to avoiding an emergency and will save you valuable time, if and when an emergency happens on your farm. A preparedness plan should cover a variety of issues that could arise on the farm from a natural disaster to a herd health epidemic. In this webinar, Rick Jackson, U.S. dairy product manager, Merck Animal Health, explains how to develop an on-farm preparedness plan, as outlined in the Dairy C.A.R.E. Initiative, and walks through possible scenarios and how to put a plan in place to deal with them.


Rick Jackon
U.S. Dairy Product Manager
DeSoto, Kansas

Rick Jackson has made a lifelong commitment to the dairy industry. Growing up on a dairy in the Ottawa Valley in Canada, he began his career with a strong focus upon the care and well-being of animals.

After graduation from the University of Guelph, Rick entered the dairy cattle nutrition field, which again led to his focus on proper health, nutrition and care of dairy animals. His focus has led him into dairy management roles in New York, as well as Vermont.

Rick has been with Merck Animal Health for 10 years and is truly living his dream of helping someone every day. The C.A.R.E. initiative provides him with the ultimate opportunity to protect the dairy industry.


Why is the topic of emergency preparedness important to the dairy industry?
Proactive plus prepared equals protection for the dairy farmer, his/her animals and businesses. Dairy farmers spend their lives caring for their animals and producing nutritious products for consumer dinner tables. One unanticipated situation can quickly undo their great work and shake consumer confidence in the industry. Trying to figure out what to do in the middle of an emergency never puts anyone in the best position to respond. Anticipating those things that “could” happen and planning in advance to handle them takes the “heat out of the moment” and allows the industry to focus on what is most important to manage the situation at hand.

Where should a dairy farmer begin in order to develop a preparedness plan?
A risk ranking exercise is a great place to start when developing a preparedness plan in order to determine what is most likely to happen on your farm. There are some universal emergencies that could happen to anyone, like severe weather events, herd health issues or on-farm accidents. But, maybe you live close to an urban area and issues with neighbors are likely. Start by anticipating the unanticipated. Make a list of everything that could happen on your farm. Include possible issues like encountering community resistance to farm expansion. Assign a numerical probability of each event happening from one to 10 (one least likely, 10 very likely). Then assign a numerical rating to the impact it would have on your operation from one to 10 (one – very little impact, 10 – would shut your operation down). Now multiply those numbers: Likelihood x impact. You will quickly see the top three to five challenges you might face. Start with those and build your plan from there.

What are the key components of a preparedness plan?
A response team, an emergency contact list (required under FARM 3.0) and a plan to manage the flow of information to impacted audiences are three key components of any solid preparedness plan. Once you have identified the top three to five emergencies that could happen on your farm, put a team in place to help you manage them. Think through who you would ask to advise you (attorney? veterinarian?). Who will update your customers and employees? Who will inform stakeholders? Who will take care of the animals and secure your property? Who will speak to the media? Identifying your team and developing a plan to manage an emergency is very complicated in the heat of the moment, so take some time to thoughtfully prepare when things are calm.

What do you feel is the most important factor when managing an emergency?
A quick response to ensure that all people and animals are safe followed by open and transparent communication with impacted audiences. Safety is paramount – always. Then it is important to let your audience know what you are doing to manage and resolve the situation at hand.

Why is proper training important for dairy operations to implement in advance of an emergency?
Every farm with livestock should have a preparedness plan and a response team in place to handle emergency situations. It is vital that employees are trained on the plan and know who to call if they suspect an issue or need help.  They also need to know who will be communicating with them and what their roles are – or aren’t – to manage the situation.

How will FARM help industry stakeholders in the area of emergency preparedness? 
The FARM program and the National Milk Producers Federation are standing by to help in times of emergencies. Additionally, through partnerships with industry stakeholders, like Merck Animal Health, they are making tools and resources available to help dairy farmers put the policies and procedures in place to protect their animals and their businesses. The Merck Animal Health Dairy C.A.R.E. Initiative was developed to support the significant efforts of dairy producers to provide the best quality of care for their animals 24 x 7. It includes preparedness planning tools and templates, tips and guidance on how to prepare for the unexpected. The tools are available online at dairycare365.com, nationaldairyfarm.com, or you can speak to your Merck Animal Health sales representative.

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: Pain Management

January 19, 2017 | 12:00 pm EST | Watch HereUnknown Object


Pain can be defined as an unpleasant physical sensation occurring in varying degrees of severity as consequence of injury, disease or from a medical or management procedure. The goal of any dairy is prevent animals from experiencing any type of pain throughout their lifetime to ensure their well-being. Unfortunately, there are times when painful procedures must be conducted for the animals’ health and safety and for employee safety. While necessary, it is critical to reduce the amount of pain animals experience during and after these procedures to ensure long term well-being and productivity. The webinar will discuss and provide pain mitigation options and management tools that producers can use in order to effectively manage pain that animals may experience during necessary procedures and in times of injury or disease.


Hans Coetzee DVM, PhD

Department of Anatomy and Physiology

Kansas State University

Dr. Hans Coetzee is a Professor and Head of the Department of Anatomy and Physiology at Kansas State University. He obtained his Bachelor of Veterinary Science degree from the University of Pretoria, South Africa in 1996. After graduation he worked for four years in mixed animal practice in Northern Ireland followed by 2 years in pharmaceutical research and development at Norbrook Laboratories Ltd. He received a specialist Certificate in Cattle Health and Production from the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (London) in 2000 and a doctorate in Veterinary Microbiology from Iowa State University in 2005. He holds dual board certification in the American College of Veterinary Clinical Pharmacology and American College of Animal Welfare and is a European Specialist in Animal Welfare Science, Ethics and Law. His professional interests include the development of analgesic drug regimens for use in food animals and therapy of bovine anaplasmosis. He has published 108 peer-reviewed scientific papers and received over $8 million in research funding. In his free time he enjoys spending time with his wife and his twin daughters.

Q & A WITH DR. Coetzee

Why is the topic of pain management important to the dairy industry?

Consumers are interested in how their food is produced and they consider livestock producers to be the custodians of animal welfare. While dairymen do an outstanding job in taking care of the daily needs of the animals under their care, pain management on the farm in often overlooked. Many of the routine livestock management practices performed on dairy operations, such as dehorning and castration, are painful. In these instances, it is not unreasonable for consumers to expect that producers are taking proactive steps to minimizing pain and distress. Although there are several challenges associated with providing effective pain relief in livestock in the United States, these should not be an impediment to our industry meeting our moral and ethical obligations towards the animals in our care.

How can proper pain management make a difference within the greater dairy industry?

Aside from being an expectation that consumers have that producers will provide pain management at the time of painful procedures, this practices also reduces stress on the animal and the livestock caregiver. The use of local anesthesia at disbudding for example reduces aversive behavioral responses from the animal making them easier to handle. There is also evidence that pain management improves average daily weight gain in calves over 10 days after dehorning and may also reduce the incidence of bovine respiratory disease in older calves. Pain management can therefore represent a win-win for the animal, the producer and the industry at large.

Why should dairy producers care about pain management?

Routine management procedures such as dehorning and castration are painful. As the custodians of animal welfare, producers have a moral and ethical obligation to reduce or prevent pain in the animals under their care. Pain management also reduces animal distress and also facilitates the safe handling of animals during the time of the procedure.  Research has also shown that animals that receive analgesia have improved average daily weight gain and reduced incidence of disease.

Why is proper training in pain management important for dairy operations to implement?

Currently there are no drugs specifically approved by FDA for pain management. As a result, pain management constitutes extra-label drug use. Under Federal law, extra-label drug use is legal provided this occurs under the direction and supervision of a veterinarian. Dairy producers are therefore encouraged to develop pain management protocols with their veterinarian. Caregivers should also be trained on the correct method for administering a local anesthetic drug and have knowledge of the meat and milk withhold periods of the drugs involved.

What do you feel is the most important factor that leads to sound pain management practices on dairy farms?

Education. This is education in the recognition of pain in animals, the techniques for providing pain management and the prudent use of pharmaceutical compounds to alleviate pain in animals.

What is the most common mistake dairy producers/employees make related to pain management?

They fail to recognize routine management practices as being painful and they fail consult with their veterinarian to develop pain management protocols.

How will FARM help industry stakeholders raise the bar for pain management?

Increase awareness of procedures that are painful and proactive steps that producers can take to alleviate pain in animals.

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: Cattle Marketing

January 12, 2017 | 12:00 pm EST | Watch Here


Marketing a dairy animal as beef is an important part of dairy farming and transitioning a cow to the beef sector at the right time is important. Lowell Midla, MS, VMD, Merck Animal Health veterinary technical services manager, will share guidelines on when to market, fitness for transport, observing withdrawal periods and proper protocols for selling and transporting as specified under FARM 3.0.


Lowell Midla, MS, VMD

Dairy Technical Services Manager

Merck Animal Health

Dr. Lowell Midla received his Bachelor’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania in 1988 and his V.M.D. (Doctor of Veterinary Medicine), also from Pennsylvania, in 1992.

Following graduation, Dr. Midla joined a mixed animal practice in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.  In 1994, he moved on to The Ohio State University where he completed a food animal medicine and surgery residency and simultaneously earned a Master’s degree.  His Master’s degree research focused on laminitis and lameness in dairy cattle.  In 1996, Dr. Midla and his wife Joanne established a veterinary practice near Marianna, Pennsylvania.  In the fall of 2001, he joined the faculty of The Ohio State University, practicing and teaching at the large animal ambulatory service in Marysville, Ohio.  In 2016, he joined the cattle technical services team at Merck Animal Health.

Dr. Midla was appointed by the American Association of Bovine Practitioners to serve on the Council for Agricultural Science and Technology Board of Representatives – from which he was elected to serve as CAST president in 2013. Dr. Bolton practiced dairy veterinary medicine privately for 28 years in both Wisconsin and Michigan before joining Merck Animal Health in 2006.


Why is the topic of cattle marketing important to the dairy industry? / Why should dairy producers care about marketing their cattle?

Reason 1: Proper cattle marketing is the right thing to do.

Reason 2: Consumers give dairy farmers the social license to operate.  Public perception of the entire dairy industry, including how we market dairy animals, influences the willingness of consumers to continue to grant this license.  Thus, proper marketing of dairy animals is critical to maintaining our license to operate.

Reason 3: See Reason 1.

What is the most common mistake that dairy producers make when marketing cattle? / What do you feel is the most important factor that leads to great dairy cattle marketing?

The most common mistake that dairy producers make when marketing cattle is to think that their responsibility ends when the animal steps on the truck to leave the farm.  Instead, dairy producers should think more circumspectly.  That is, the dairy producer should think about the animal in question from the time it leaves the farm to the time it enters the food chain and then do what is within their power to ensure that a wholesome product will enter the food chain.

What role does the FARM Animal Care Program play in cattle marketing?

The FARM Animal Care Program outlines excellent guidelines for cattle marketing.  Producers who follow the guidelines to the letter can say that they are doing well.  Producers who not only follow the guidelines to the letter, but also embrace the spirit of the guidelines can say that they are doing the right thing for consumers, for the cows, for the dairy industry, and for themselves.

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: 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.

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.