Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is the National Dairy Animal Well-Being Initiative?

A: The National Dairy Animal Well-Being Initiative is a producer-led effort to build consumer trust and confidence in the dairy industry’s commitment to animal well-being. We want to protect our freedom to operate by demonstrating that we recognize our ethical obligation to care for our animals and that we have programs in place to meet that obligation.

Q: How will this work?

A: The National Dairy Animal Well-Being Initiative Coalition developed the broad Principles and Guidelines that any dairy well-being program should include to meet our ethical obligation to provide for the well-being of our animals. This is NOT another on-farm animal well-being program. One of the great strengths of the dairy industry is our robust regional co-ops, associations and independent companies.

Many of these organizations have already established, or are in the process of establishing, well-being programs. We want to capitalize on the strength of our regional organizations and still provide assurance to our national stakeholders that the entire industry is meeting our obligation to provide appropriate care for our animals by having a uniform national umbrella of well-being principles and guidelines.

A draft version of the Principles and Guidelines was first released at the 2007 World Dairy Expo. Since then it has been under review by various stakeholders across the industry. Comments were compiled and evaluated by the NDAWI Coalition and incorporated into the final version released at the 2008 World Dairy Expo.

These Principles and Guidelines provide validation that the various programs that exist meet our obligation to provide appropriate care. This is done by comparing the elements of individual programs against the Principles and Guidelines.

Q: Who is on the Coalition that did this work?

A: The Coalition was a broad-based group of volunteers from across the country who represented every facet of the dairy industry including producers, processors, co-ops, allied industry, academics, associations and others. More than 60 people were involved in the work of the National Dairy Animal Well-Being Initiative since late 2005. The Coalition was not part of any specific association or organization, but a group that reflected the diversity and strength of the U.S. dairy industry.

In addition to individual dairy producers, other industry leaders which participated in the Coalition, or contributed in some way, included: Alto Dairy Cooperative (prior to acquisition by Saputo), American Association of Bovine Practitioners, American Farm Bureau Federation, Animart, American Foods Group, Cornell University, Dairy Farmers of America, Dairy Management Inc., Elanco Animal Health, Foremost Farms USA, Grande Cheese Company, International Dairy Foods Association, Land O’ Lakes, Milk and Dairy Beef Quality Assurance Center Inc., Morgan&Myers, National Milk Producers Federation, Northeast Dairy Producers Association, Organic Valley, Pfizer Animal Health, Professional Animal Auditor

Certification Organization (PAACO), Professional Dairy Managers of Pennsylvania, Professional Dairy Producers of Wisconsin, Rabobank, Rosenholm Wolfe Dairy LLP, Safeway Inc., Smithfield Beef Group, United Dairymen of Arizona, University of Arizona, University of California-Davis, University of Wisconsin- Madison, Validus, Washington Dairy Products Commission, Washington State Dairy Federation, WestfaliaSurge, Inc., Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation, Wisconsin Livestock Identification Consortium, Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board, Wisconsin Pork Producers Association.

Q: Why is this important?

A: Animal well-being is increasingly important to our customers and other dairy industry stakeholders who grant us the social license we need to operate. Today, dairy animal well-being is a top-of-mind consumer concern. We want to maintain the level of consumer trust and confidence in dairy producers.

The Initiative gives dairy producers a chance to control their destiny and protect their freedom to operate by demonstrating that the dairy industry is committed to doing the right thing when it comes to animal well-being. It also provides them the opportunity to protect their markets and preserve market access by proving their commitment to animal well-being to customers and other stakeholders by participating in an animal well-being program that incorporates the national well-being Principles and Guidelines.

Q: How do stakeholders in the industry get involved?

A: You may take part in an on-farm animal well-being program that incorporates the well-being Principles and Guidelines developed by the Coalition. Your co-op, association or other market channel partner may already have a program in place. If not, encourage them to develop one or consider one that is available on the open market.

Q: Why should dairy producers participate?

A: We need all producers to demonstrate the dairy industry’s commitment to animal well-being. Today, dairy animal well-being is not a top-of-mind issue for consumers. We want to provide our customers, policy makers and other stakeholders who grant us the social license to operate, the assurance that we are meeting our ethical obligation to care for our animals. By working together we can protect our freedom to operate by successfully managing this issue.

Q: Isn’t this just giving into the activists?

A: No. The creation of the National Dairy Animal Well-Being Initiative demonstrates the dairy industry’s awareness of the need to communicate our commitment to animal well-being to our customers and consumers. Dairy producers have a long tradition of providing good care for their animals. We want to control our own destiny by creating a program that proves our commitment and allows us to honestly and accurately portray what happens on the farm.

Q: Is this a government program? Are they going to audit my operation?

A: This is not a government program. The National Dairy Animal Well-Being Initiative was created by a group of concerned industry stakeholders who know producers are committed to doing what’s right and want to help the industry successfully manage this challenging issue. There will not be government audits of your on-farm animal well-being practices. The National Dairy Animal Well-Being Principles and

Guidelines do include third-party oversight to assure credibility and demonstrate effectiveness. Individual well-being programs may incorporate different methods of third-party oversight that are consistent with the Principles and Guidelines. Some programs may choose to audit a statistical sample of farms while others may choose to audit every farm on a rotating schedule. The verification process should be conducted by an individual or entity with no financial interest in the dairy or in the outcome of the program verification process.

Q: What does this do to my co-op’s or processor’s existing animal well-being program?

A: We believe that having uniform national dairy animal well-being principles and guidelines will help validate the strength of individual on-farm animal well-being programs. Your co-op’s or processor’s program should be enhanced by the National Dairy Animal Well-Being Initiative.

Q: What if my co-op doesn’t participate in the Initiative?

A: If your co-op or milk marketer does not participate in a welfare program that is part of the National Dairy Animal Well-Being Initiative, you may do so on your own. There are independent well-being programs offered by companies across the country. Your state or national dairy organization may be able to recommend one doing business in your area.

Q: Are veal calves included in this Initiative?

A: The Principles and Guidelines cover all animals on the dairy. Once a calf leaves the dairy, it would no longer be covered by the Principles and Guidelines. This is true regardless of where the calf is going.

Q: What will it cost for producers to participate?

A: There was no cost to producers for the development of the Principles and Guidelines. It is up to each producer and their co-op or marketing partner to determine the appropriate animal well-being program for their situation. The cost and allocation of cost is a decision made by the marketing partner and the producer. The National Dairy Animal Well-Being Initiative has no role in that relationship.

Q: How is the Initiative funded?

A: Much of the work of the Initiative has been done by volunteers. The people who have attended the Coalition meetings have all done so at their own cost. The Professional Dairy Producers of Wisconsin provided initial funding to get the Initiative off the ground. Other industry stakeholders provided funding to help launch the Initiative publicly.

Q: Can dairy checkoff funds be used to fund the NDAWI as the pork checkoff did with a similar initiative?

A: Dairy checkoff funds have been used to help fund certain areas of the overall Initiative. The Initiative has three components:

  • A. Principles and Guidelines, from which regulation or legislation could be formed
  • B. Producer outreach, involving education efforts to convince dairy producers to support these efforts
  • C. Public communication, including education of the dairy marketing chain.

Dairy checkoff funds may only be used to help support the initiatives of public communication of the overall effort. While the Principles and Guidelines are an important component of the Initiative as is the communication of them to producers, checkoff cannot fund as it could involve legislation and regulatory efforts or advocacy efforts to gain dairy producer support.

Public education is an appropriate channel for dairy checkoff involvement. The dairy checkoff has been heavily involved in these efforts, including staff and other in-kind resources to move the Initiative forward. DMI staff member David Pelzer chairs the Marketing Communications committee and DMI has made a financial contribution as well.

This same model of what constitutes appropriate involvement of the dairy checkoff was employed in managing water quality issues in the Bosque River watershed (including Lake Waco) of Texas in 2002- 2003. The dairy checkoff funded and managed consumer research in Texas that led to an industry-wide public relations campaign that resulted in a more favorable public image of dairy producers in the state.

Q: Where do we go after the launch?

A: The responsibility to provide for the well-being of dairy animals lies with producers. Co-ops and other market channel partners are encouraged to work with producers to develop and implement on-farm wellbeing assurance programs that meet the needs of our customers and consumers. Existing programs are encouraged to review the Principles and Guidelines to assure alignment.

The Principles and Guidelines will be applied to the on-farm well-being programs as good communication, education and training will facilitate effective on-farm implementation of any well-being program and the related best management practices.

Once producers understand how the on-farm program works, they can begin incorporating any new or modified best management practices. Program implementation is where the on-farm commitment to wellbeing is put into practice.

Producers are encouraged to conduct internal assessments of their well-being programs to measure program effectiveness as this provides an opportunity for additional education and improvement. Internal assessments may be conducted by a qualified program partner and increase the success rate of the third-party program verification.

Q: Where is the Initiative “housed” after the launch?

A: The role of the Coalition and Initiative is to help facilitate industry engagement on this issue. There is no formal structure, no organization and no bureaucracy. There is no need to “house” the initiative. If there are additional issues that need to be addressed the group can re-convene on an as-needed basis.

Q: What is the long term funding strategy for the Initiative?

A: Because there is no formal structure or bureaucracy, there is no long term funding strategy. If the industry believes additional issues need to be addressed, it will be up to industry leaders to help secure funding.

Q: What is the on-going organization structure?

A: There is no formal structure. This is a coalition of volunteers supported by professional facilitation and coordination.