If you currently dock tails on the farm, and your cooperative or farm is one of the many members of National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) or the National Dairy FARM (Farmers Assuring Responsible Management) program, December 31, 2016, will be your last day using the practice.

NMPF announced yesterday in a press release that its board hastened the deadline for tail-docking from 2022 to January 1, 2017. “On this issue, the science, the advice of our technical experts and requests from our dairy customers and consumers are all aligned,” said NMPF President and CEO Jim Mulhern, in the release.

During the NMPF/DMI joint annual meeting’s question and answer session, Emily Meredith, vice president of animal care for NMPF, addressed that the announcement was consistent with other changes to the program.

“Our technical writing group is always front lines in the process, the first iteration of National FARM was in 2009, and tail docking has always been a recommendation to be phased out,” she said. “In 2012 NMPF directors voted to phase it out by 2022.”

This year again, the technical committee recommended phasing out tail-docking, which the board took up in its meeting on that recommendation and voted to phase it out  faster, by 2017.

“We’ve heard from customers all across the country, large and small, that tail docking is the number one issue they hear about from their consumers – not from activist groups,” Mulhern said in addressing a question. “It started many years ago as an activist driven issue. Today, it’s jumped the shark.”

“It’s not going to be popular across the country, but that’s leadership,” Mulhern said, noting that he realizes there will be future issues, “But this will be in the rear-view mirror.”

Several questions from meeting attendees asked what was next, and what NMPF was doing to prevent that.

"There's two sides to it, there's the science and the emotion," Mulhern answered. "We have to have the science, and address the emotion."

"It's all about trust; trust in what we do with food, and the way we produce it," he said. "We're on the right track, and we just need to keep this up."

New website and social media launched

The announcement coincided with new communications resources in the form of a re-launched website (found here), and a new Facebook and Twitter account, both with the handle @FARMProgram.

NMPF announced that 370 evaluators took on 33,381 second party evaluations, representing 90% of the U.S. milk supply since the National FARM program started in 2009. NMPF made the National FARM program mandatory for NMPF member farms, with all evaluations needing completion by December 2016.

This year, Meredith announced that the National FARM program’s science based committee wrapped up its meetings for the FARM 3.0 technical writing group. They met in June, then broke into small groups by chapter. As result, there were minor revisions and reference changes throughout the FARM manual, but significant revisions to chapters 6 and 10, representing animal health and dairy beef.

Meredith said the process just wrapped up Friday, so changes will still be forwarded to NMPF’s animal health and well-being committee, then out for public comment. What will change going forward, is National FARM evaluations will dip into a double certification with the Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) programs, and also teamed with the training announced earlier this summer with the Merck Animal Health Dairy Care365TM.