For most of us, as farmers and animal caretakers, taking care of cows is just what we innately do. But over the years we have realized that our commitment to our cows isn’t always as obvious to those outside of agriculture and now we need to do a better job sharing what we do.
Taking exceptional care of our cows is a core value that Majestic Crossing was built on. As our farm grew beyond the little red barn, that never wavered. However, as we added staff and cows over the years we knew that we wanted to ensure that those values were shared by every person who stepped into our barn to work.
We have approached this goal in two different ways. The first is that we work with many industry professionals to teach our employees the proper way to move and care for our cows. The second is that we participate in two different animal welfare auditing programs. These programs allow us to measure and manage what happens here on the farm to ensure we are always doing the best for our cows.
As a way to better share what we do here at Majestic Crossing, our farm participates in the Farmers Assuring Responsible Management (FARM) program through Sartori Cheese, our milk processor. And since 2005 we have worked with Validus, a third-party animal welfare audit program. We knew early on that having a way to share our commitment to caring for our animals was important, so we were proactive in seeking out ways to meet the desires of the public for transparency. We believe that participating in these programs gives us a layer of credibility to what we do and how we care for our cows in the public’s eyes.
Our farm has definitely grown and improved since we started working with Validus over 15 years ago in the first wave of farms to use a third-party audit program. Now every year an auditor visits our farm and goes over our records, procedures, and training methods in all the different areas of animal care. There have been times where our evaluator has told us we needed to change what we were doing and as hard as it is to hear that we didn’t have it right in the first place, we adjusted what we needed to.
We never want the abnormal to become normal. As part of the Validus program, we do a lot of training and retraining on the farm. Not all of our employees grew up working with cows and even those who did can always learn and improve. So every year we go over proper cow handling. We teach everyone about cow behavior, flight zones, and mostly how to set the cows up to do what you need them to do in a way that is natural for them. We want our cows to only be in good situations and that depends on all of us to know how to work with cows the right way.
Ultimately I can’t be there to see every interaction that happens between humans and cows on this farm, not many farmers can. That is where the on farm culture we have built over the years comes in. I have to trust that everyone on my team is on the same page. I want each person to make the right choices for the cows, every time. The average person only knows their small pets and they love them very much, they have never had to move a cow. I want everyone here to think about how their actions look to those people. We know where the line is and we want to stay as far away from that line as we can.
Our yearly audit with Validus is coming up and I’ve been spending time going over our records. It may seem odd to willingly spend not just time but a significant amount of money to undergo a yearly animal welfare audit. But we believe that it has made us better caretakers of our cows and better at telling our story, and that is worth a lot to our farm.