Consumers continue to crave more information about how their food is produced. As such, livestock production practices can be caught in the spotlight. Most farmers say proper care of animals is part of their DNA, but as these three producers will tell you, good stewardship is paramount to their success. Animal welfare is vital to the financial and environmental sustainability of their businesses.
Healthy Pigs = Happy Consumers
“We have an obligation to treat the animals comfortably, and it’s for the good of everybody. It’s not only good for the animals; it’s for the good of the workers and the business of farming. In addition, consumers want to know how their animals are treated and where their food comes from — and they have every right to know that. It's important we do the very best we can to get that message to them. I’ve been raising animals my whole life, and I think animals are treated better today than they ever have been in the history of animal farming. Still, there’s always room for improvement, and it’s imperative we make sure the animals have the best care possible. One of the ways we continue to improve animal care is to use industry professionals, who have to the opportunity to visit other farms, to point out little things we can be do better.”
Poultry Farm Opens Doors
“On our farm, we installed a viewing room in one of the chicken houses. The general public can see directly into our chicken houses, without risking biosecurity. We don’t have anything to hide. In order to keep the animals healthy, happy and growing, we have to implement best management practices that influence a positive reflection of what chickens want and need. Welfare is No. 1 for me. I’m in my chicken houses every day monitoring how they’re feeling and making sure that they are happy. In the 22 years we’ve been raising chickens, welfare has changed dramatically. Not that we were doing anything wrong before, but there’s been a lot of research and development in the poultry industry in the past 10 years. With every single flock we raise, we’re collecting data, learning and observing to see what’s best for the chickens.”
Committed to Cow Comfort
“I believe animal welfare is important to all farmers. We know there is a direct correlation between the care we put into our animals and the products those animals produce. Myself and our employees are reminded, and understand, our cows produce milk and milk sales are our main source of income. If we take care of the cow, she will take care of us. On our farm, we use a team of professionals to ensure our cows are cared for under the current best practices. Our veterinarian and nutritionist share their knowledge with our team to make sure we are up-to-date with the standards of high-quality care of our cows. Animal welfare is evolving every day on our farm, but the one consistent theme is common sense. We teach and train our employees to use common sense when handling and caring for our cows."
3 Tips to Improve Animal Care
Livestock producers have come a long way in terms of animal care, but you can always do more. Emily Yeiser-Stepp, senior director with the National Dairy Farmers Advocating for Responsible Management Program, offers three steps toward a long-term
commitment to animal care.
- Adopt new practices. Producers can’t rest on the we’ve-done-it-this-way-for-30-years mentality.
- Engage with experts. Surround yourself with advisers and peers who will provide constructive criticism.
- Engage your workforce. Explain the “why” behind each and every practice, and give your employees ownership of the animal care culture on your farm.
To learn more strategies to make animal care a priority on your farm, visit AgWeb.com/animal-care-tips
Read the 2019 America's Conservation Ag Movement Annual Report in Farm Journal.