DES MOINES — A coalition of farmers, animal welfare experts, veterinarians and agricultural industry leaders launched a first-of-its kind effort Thursday to provide a centralized resource where Iowans can receive information about appropriate farm animal care.
Organizers of the Iowa Farm Animal Care Coalition say the new group is designed to answer Iowans’ questions about farm animal care and assist farmers in farm animal care resources to help ensure all Iowa farm animals benefit from the latest science-based animal care standards.
The new resource will provide information on farm animal care to consumers and referrals to farmers, organizers said. The coalition has assembled an independent on-farm evaluation team of experts that will specialize in performing voluntary on-site evaluations to ensure appropriate farm animal care is being given. If requested, the team will provide recommendations on how to address deficiencies or take corrective action to benefit animals, organizers said.
Coalition executive director Denny Harding said at a news conference that the Iowa effort — modeled after the programs that have worked effectively in Canada for 20 years — is being launched by farmers for farmers and consumers.
“Farmers understand that consumers want to know more about where their food comes from and how it was raised,” Harding said. “IFAC is available to help increase public understanding.
“Until now, there has not been a centralized place where Iowans could go for farm animal care information. Now, they can visit www.iowafarmanimalcare.org and learn more about how responsible Iowa livestock farmers care for their animals or call our help line at 1-800-252-0577 to report a concern if they see something they don’t understand.”
The coalition plans to provide access to experts who specialize in many aspects of animal care, including animal science experts and veterinarians from Iowa State University’s colleges of Veterinary Medicine and Agriculture and Life Sciences and the state veterinarian’s office at the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship.
“This is a positive step forward, to reach out to consumers and farmers alike, to provide information about farm animal care or just be there with support if a concern should arise,” said Tom Colvin, executive director of the Animal Rescue League of Iowa.
Colvin will serve on the coalition’s four-member advisory committee with Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey, state veterinarian Dr. David Schmitt and Jerry Dunbar, president of the Iowa State Sheriffs and Deputies Association.
“It puts a lot more tools in the tool chest,” Colvin said.
The coalition includes farmers from the Iowa Farm Bureau and the Iowa Pork Producers Association, Iowa State University College of Veterinary Medicine and College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship.
“It’s very exciting to get this off the ground,” said Dr. Suzanne Millman, Iowa State University associate professor of animal welfare. “I think the overwhelming majority of farmers today are doing a great job handling farm animals and have their best interests in mind when it comes to their health and environment.
“Different species have different behaviors thus requiring different care. IFAC can help provide farmers with the latest in animal care research, while ensuring that appropriate care is being given and answering consumer questions.”