Farm Horizons, June 2018
Jeurissen family proud of FARM program,
By Nancy Dashwood
Most Americans may have heard of the National Milk Producers Federation. The Federation’s FARM program, created in 2009, is one that dairy farmers Rick and Mindy Jeurissen wish more people who don’t work in the dairy industry knew more about.
FARM stands for Farmers Assuring Responsible Management. The program’s website (www.nationaldairyfarm.com/) states the nationwide program is made up of dairy farmers, cooperatives, and processors who must meet rigorous guidelines to ensure the utmost quality on US dairy farms.
Rick Jeurissen defined FARM similarly, but in a more user-friendly way. “FARM was created to ensure consumer confidence that dairies are providing a healthy and caring environment for their animals, and a safe product for consumers,” he said.
Jeurissen stated every creamery in the country eventually adopted FARM requirements for its farmers. The FARM program oversees three distinct areas: animal care, environmental stewardship, and antibiotic stewardship.
The Jeurissens discovered that many people not directly involved in the dairy industry have some misconceptions about dairy farming practices. They get that. “Without knowledge, we have fear,” Mindy says.
Some people may believe the animals live in abusive conditions. The FARM program ensures that will not be the case, and its 138-page Animal Care Manual regulations cover such things as a herd health plan, caring for newborn and milk-fed dairy calves, hygiene, locomotion, body abrasion and injuries, and pest control.
Dairy farmers who participate in FARM must schedule an on-site veterinarian visit a minimum of two times per year. The Jeurissens actually have their veterinarian, Lester Prairie Vet Clinic’s Dr. Jon Hucker scheduled for a visit to their farm once per month. “Whenever we need him he’s a phone call away,” Rick stated. “He lives just across the field.”
FARM dairy operations also have a written Veterinarian-Client-Patient Relationship signed by the farm owner or manager and the Veterinarian of Record that is updated annually, or more often as needed.
All FARM participants must ensure that each animal is permanently identified. A specific written protocol and routine for the milking process is part of the FARM regulations, and is followed carefully to ensure low-stress animal handling, and well-being.
If an animal is in need of medication, it must be prescribed by a veterinarian. Dairy farm workers must go through a training process. An entire chapter in the FARM Animal Care manual is devoted to the care, handling, and feeding of new born calves.
FARM rules and regulations are copious and updated often. That’s just fine with the Jeurissens. They are all about building consumer confidence in their animal husbandry and milk production practices. They have instilled that in their own children, as well. Their oldest, Genevieve, recently married Erik Paggen, but still helps at her home farm. Daughter Grace, 17, is calm, cool, and collected when it is time to deliver a calf, and her parents say she has always had a soothing natural way with animals. Their youngest, Sam, 13, is mechanically-inclined and likes to understand how their farm equipment works. While Rick knows he is his family’s fifth generation to make his living from dairy-farming, he hopes he won’t be the last.
Rick said the most satisfying part of his work is watching his children progress and accelerate their skills, both on and off the farm. Mindy agreed. “They’ve grown up with responsibility,” she stated. “They know how to get it done.”
Rick said he couldn’t really imagine doing anything else for work. “We do this because we love it,” he said. “We’re not doing it to get rich.”
Besides educating their own employees and children about dairy farm operations, the Jeurissens are happy to share their farm with just about anyone. During a recent kindergarten field trip to his farm, Rick showed the little ones a Dorito chip and a cheese goldfish cracker, and asked where the cheese on the kid-friendly snacks came from. He explained that the cheese was made with milk from a dairy farm just like his. Apparently, the students were quite impressed by that. Rick talked to them about all the ways cow’s milk is used. And the student’s began to understand that most foods have dairy in them, and that dairy comes from farms just like Rick’s. The Jeurissen farm also has had many spectators on-hand to witness a cow give birth to a calf both at the farm’s open house, and at his daughter’s graducation party. Those kinds of events are what the FARM program is all about.
“The reason FARM was created is so that people understand the animals are being properly taken care of,” Rick said. “If people understand the FARM program, they support the local farmer.”
To learn more about the FARM program, visit the extensive website at http://www.nationaldairyfarm.com/.