National Dairy FARM Program Takes Aim At Pain Management

The National Dairy FARM Program (Farmers Assuring Responsible Management)1 introduced several updates to it's calf management guidelines which took effect January 1, 2017. The 2017 revision places greater emphasis on employee training and the Veterinarian-Client Patient relationship.

Painful medical procedures and the need to manage the associated pain and stress to animals get detailed attention in this revision. Dehorning/disbudding, castration, branding, and extra teat removal are all procedures performed on calves and require pain management. The practice of tail docking was phased out as of January 1, 2017. Painful medical procedures and discussions of best practices are provided below.

Painful Medical Procedures

Properly administered lidocaine can have a profound effect on the pain experienced by a calf during dehorning. This Calf Management Tips video demonstrates the proper techniques for administering lidocaine and dehorning.

Calf Management Tips: Lidocaine Blocking and Dehorning

Other Recommended Calf Management Practices Include...

Milk or Milk Replacer Feeding
Starter and Water 
Hygiene (score 1 = clean, 4 = dirty).
Body Condition Score (BCS 1-4)
  • Temperature and Humidity: for calves less than 1 month of age, shield from drafts (wind speeds >50 ft per minute). Dry bedding is preferred by milk-fed calves and is essential in cold weather conditions. Higher milk/milk replacer feeding rates are required to supplement calories for growing calves and a deep bed of straw is recommended for nesting in cold climates. Clean calf jackets can be used to supplement these cold weather strategies.

For more information on the FARM Program, check out the links below to the National Dairy FARM Program and to the Animal Care Manual and other program resources.


Link to Calf Feeding -- Bottles vs. Pails
Link to National Dairy FARM Program website
Download Version 3.0 Animal Care Manual

1The FARM Program is a voluntary program available to all dairy farmers involving on-farm evaluations and verifications to establish best management practices. The program aims at helping participating farms to continuously improve and to demonstrate their commitment to high standards.