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Animal Care FAQs

The FARM Animal Care Program demonstrates that dairy farmers are committed to taking excellent care of their animals and producing safe, wholesome milk by:

  • Detailing science-based animal care guidelines that evolve with the latest dairy research
  • Providing on-farm evaluations by trained evaluators who work with farmers to identify strengths and, if necessary, outline improvements
  • Ensuring the integrity of the program with third party verification by qualified dairy experts who evaluate a representative percentage of farms each year to demonstrate that FARM is working as intended

98% of the US milk supply participates in the FARM Animal Care program area. Dairy farmers participate in the program through their milk cooperatives, processors, individual farms, and other organizations. When an organization signs a FARM Animal Care participation form, they commit that 100% of their membership will be evaluated against the current animal care version’s standards and is subject to third party verification.

Participating in the FARM Animal Care program is not required by law. Milk cooperatives, processors individual farms, and other organizations with dairy farm members elect to participate in the FARM Animal Care program on behalf of their members. Currently 98% of the US milk supply participates in the program. When an organization signs a FARM Animal Care participation form, they commit that 100% of their membership will be evaluated against the current animal care version’s standards and is subject to third party verification.

The National Dairy FARM Animal Care Program standards are formally revised every three years through a year to year and a half long process. Those involved in the developing and revising standards include:


Who sets FARM Animal Care Standards and Expectations?

Dairy farms belonging to participating organization are expected to meet the standards outlined within the current program version. FARM Animal Care Version 4 is active from January 1, 2020 to December 31, 2023. You can view the Version 4 standards here.

Additionally, producers are required to:

  • Sign a Pledge of Participation during Second Party Evaluation, establishing an understanding of standards and the verification process
  • Provide necessary written protocols and records for the evaluator or verifier to review
  • Assist the evaluator or verifier as needed in completing the evaluation
  • Complete any corrective action plans within the identified timeline(s)

A Second Party Evaluation is an external review and assessment of on-farm animal care practices for a participating dairy farm facility based on the National Dairy FARM Program guidelines. Facilities participating in FARM Animal Care Program must undergo a Second-Party Evaluation at least once every three years. Evaluations are not to be conducted unannounced.

Second Party evaluations are conducted on each dairy facility with lactating dairy cows and locations housing dairy cows within 10 miles of the milking facility that is a member, patron, contractor, or direct shipper of any organization that has signed a FARM Animal Care Participation Agreement.

Second Party Evaluations are conducted by certified individuals who complete and pass annual in-person training. Before attending a training, Second Party Evaluators are required to meet minimum prerequisites, including a combination of five years of education and/or on-dairy farm industry experience, a written application, and completion of an in-depth interview. Read more about the evaluator approval and certification process here.

All facilities that have had a Second Party Evaluation may be subject to Third Party Verification, if selected through random sampling. Contracted with the FARM Animal Care Program, Third Party Verifiers conduct verifications on a representative percentage of participating facilities each year to provide statistically valid data regarding Program Participants’ adherence to FARM Program guidelines. This process demonstrates the program’s integrity by ensuring Program Participants’ Second Party Evaluators consistently implement the FARM Program. Third Party Verifiers conduct their assessment utilizing the same standards as Second Party Evaluators. Verifications are never conducted unannounced.

Every six months, a random sample of all eligible facilities is selected from a pool of the facilities that were evaluated during the previous six months. Verifications are then scheduled with each farm owner and will occur no less than 60 days after the farm is notified of selection.

The National Dairy FARM Program contracts with an auditing firm to facilitate the FARM Animal Care Program verification process. Individuals approved to conduct verifications must meet the outlined requirements for Second Party animal care evaluators in addition to having an extensive auditor background. All Third Party Verifiers must complete an annual in-person training.

All dairy facilities have access to review their completed evaluations, verifications, and active and past corrective action plans within the password-secured FARM database. Facility representatives in need of an account for the FARM database should reach out to their FARM Second Party Evaluator.

The FARM Program values feedback from the dairy community as it influences future standards and programmatic processes. After participating in a Second Party Evaluation or Third Party Verification, we encourage all dairy producers and managers to complete a feedback form.