Wolfgang DR1, Hovingh EP1, Bunting S2, Munson R3, Frey J4, Bair A5, Slayton P6, Bower L7, Bittner P81 Pennsylvania State University, Department of Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences2 Agricultural Writing and Photography, East Earl, PA3 School of Veterinary Medicine, University of Pennsylvania4 Center for Dairy Excellence, Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture5 Department of Dairy and Animal Science, Pennsylvania State University6 Pennsylvania Beef Council7 Progressive Dairy Managers of Pennsylvania8 Pennsylvania Dairymen's Association
In the past ten years a number of quality assurance programs have emerged in various livestock industries. The majority of these programs initially focused on product quality, i.e., food safety, residues, and blemishes, but with time some have incorporated more robust elements of animal care. Due to consumer concerns and, at times, shareholder-driven initiatives, a few livestock industries have incorporated quality assurance programs into marketing agreements. Without overall guidance each program has developed independently, often with similar but slightly different animal care criteria. For example, in the poultry industry it is estimated that there are eighty different quality assurance and poultry care programs. The dairy industry in the United States has never widely embraced quality assurance programs. Each milk buyer or cooperative has enforced recognized milk quality or food safety standards, but on-farm standards for animal care were either lacking or developed to meet niche markets. In 2007 the National Holstein Association, seeing the need for national or at least regional standards, spearheaded the National Dairy Animal Well-being Initiative, which published draft guidelines in November 2007. While this initiative serves as an umbrella or framework to set the standards for dairy programs, it does not coach veterinarians, instruct dairy managers, or provide hands on training for dairy animal caretakers. Validus® was the only certified dairy well-being program that met these criteria. This program is fee-based, which can present a considerable financial hardship especially for small to mid-sized dairies. Recognizing a disconnect between initiative goals and a means to accomplish those goals, a broad consortium of members of the Pennsylvania dairy industry met over several months and drafted a manual for the Pennsylvania Dairy Animal Care and Quality Assurance Program (DACQA). This program was designed to meet national standards and to be third-party verifiable. Training has begun with the ultimate goal to reach all segments of the dairy industry in Pennsylvania. There has been interest and modest buy-in by co-ops in nearby states. Finally, an agreement has been reached with the National Cattleman's Beef Association and the National Dairy Herd Information Association (DHIA) to have the DACQA manual form the basis of their national animal care programs. The National Milk Producers Federation independently developed a similar animal care program. An effort is being made to promote the adoption and merger of major elements of these two proposals so that a consensus national program can emerge.