CROPP Cooperative Animal Care Program
Animal Care is a foundation issue for farmers and consumers. Animal Care is a primary concern in designing an organic livestock farm system that features preventative measures to ensure animal well-being. Components of good animal care include nutrition, housing, handling facilities, pasturing and preventative processes. For the consumer, the animal welfare or humane issues are a top concern and one we hear about every day from our consumers. Organic consumers want to know the organic premium represents a livestock operation that cares for its animals in a good and respectful way. Looking forward, this consumer issue will only become more important, so farmers need to embrace these standards in designing their operations and their livestock facilities.
The Animal Health Committee has led the way within CROPP Cooperative to develop these standards. The Animal Health Committee is made up of dairy farmers from around the country, as well as an egg producer and a beef/pork/poultry farmer from the Midwest. The standards have been reviewed through the related Pool Executive Committees, mailed to the farmers for feedback and finally approved by CROPP’s Board. These standards are now part of the membership polices all members must satisfy.
These standards are written to establish the intent a producer should apply in their organic livestock system plan. The standards are written to be attainable goals and it is understood that many different variables can determine whether the standards can be reached in every situation. If the goals are not reached, the producer should be able to understand why not and adjust the farm plan so the standards will be met in the future. Your pool staff person has been trained to be able to judge your animals for the listed animal well-being measures like body score, etc. This is not a pass/fail program, but is designed to be a tool for continual improvement on your farm.
We see education as a critical part of animal care. We are supporting that component with our veterinary staff, an animal care specialist, mailing related articles, field days, barn meetings and further information throughout all our communication tools. It is exciting to see new systems developing and we want to share those successes so you can consider those for your farm.
The Animal Health Committee and your Pool Executive Committee welcome your feedback, as these standards will be adjusted as we learn from their implementation. As a member of your pool, you are obligated to these standards’ intents, as these are standards that co-op members agree to follow through the Membership Agreement. These standards will support our efforts in marketing to represent the highest organic standards in the nation and should aid you in your role as a caretaker of the animals that provide us a living.
Feel free to contact your pool coordinator with questions. Wendy Fulwider, our animal care specialist, is available for consultation and should especially be used in designing new livestock facilities.
- Farm Plan
- Emergency Preparedness Plan
- Biosecurity Plan
- Water Testing
- Insect, Predator and Rodent Control
- Materials and Equipment
- Fish and Crab Meal
All farms have plans in place to protect their livestock. These plans include, but are not limited to farm accidents, natural disasters, disease outbreaks, water availability and quality. Plans to protect livestock and feedstuffs from insects, predators and rodents in a safe manner are also made.
Intent: Producers should have farm plans with provisions to care for livestock in the event of accident, disaster, fire or other unexpected event. The plan should account for letting employees or family members know what to do for alternative livestock shelter, alternative power supply, etc. This is of primary importance when the farm owner/operator is not available or has been injured. Fire extinguishers and first aid supplies should be located where they are easily seen and readily available. Someone on the farm should be trained to provide rescue and medical aid before professional help arrives. Emergency plans should include contact information for ambulance, environment, fire and police or sheriff. These numbers should be posted by all landlines and in trucks, tractor cabs, milk houses and farm offices so they are readily available and easily located. Procedures may be necessary for shutting down critical operations and powered equipment.
CROPP Cooperative should be notified in the event of an emergency, as the cooperative may be able to provide assistance.
Standard: Provisions should be in place to provide water, feed, ventilation and heat in the event of a power outage. A backup housing plan, including milking facilities if applicable, should be in place in the event of an emergency. Farmers should notify CROPP Cooperative if help is needed. A list of numbers/contacts should be available to family and employees.
Intent: All producers should have strict, workable biosecurity provisions in their farm plan to avoid disease outbreaks. Biosecurity practices prevent bacteria, parasites, viruses, toxins, etc., from making contact with livestock and control spread within the operation. The United States has not suffered a catastrophic disease outbreak as the United Kingdom did with hoof-and-mouth disease. This has heightened concerns worldwide concerning biosecurity. Disease organisms are most frequently introduced by farm visitors, on their person or vehicle: equipment dealers, salesmen, friends, neighbors, repairmen, veterinarians. Contact with animals, feed and livestock waste should be minimized.
CROPP Cooperative should be notified in the event of an emergency as the cooperative may be able to provide assistance.
Standard: Every farm must have a written biosecurity plan. This must include an animal health plan, measures taken to avoid disease introduction from incoming stock, visitors, trucks, equipment and any other external sources. Biosecurity signs should be displayed on the farm. Producers must notify their pool coordinator of any reportable disease challenges on their farm or neighboring farms.
In the case of an outbreak, all state and federal mandates would supersede the CROPP Cooperative plan.
Intent: All producers must ensure livestock have adequate access to feed and water. Fresh water should be available at all times for the health and comfort of the animals. Feed consumption is inhibited in the absence of water. Since water consumption is increased during periods of heat stress, it is vital water is easily accessible.
Standard: Livestock must have ready access to fresh water at all times.
Intent: All producers should collect basic water quality information every other year or every three years, per their state’s regulatory requirement, to determine content and safety. Since an increasing number of wells contain levels of nitrates, coliforms and other chemicals above accepted and approved limits, water should be tested periodically to assure safety. A safe water supply is essential to producing healthy livestock. Water is a critical nutrient for livestock and should meet animals’ nutritional needs. Objectionable color, odor or flavor in water can result in animals drinking less than they should. Water that adversely affects livestock growth, reproduction or productivity negatively affects animal well-being. Objectionable water may negatively affect producer health, while threatening their economic viability.
Standard: All farms are tested for coliforms every other year or every three, per their state’s regulatory requirement. Nitrate testing is recommended.
Intent: Protect crops, stored feeds and livestock from insects, predators and rodents in a manner that is humane, environmentally safe and complies with organic standards.
Standard: Organophosphate use for insect and parasite control is prohibited. Integrated pest management programs begin with exclusion. Buildings must be constructed and/or maintained to prevent predator and rodent invasion. Organic-approved materials for controlling or eliminating predators and rodents are permitted only after preventative measures have failed. Predator control and elimination must be expedient and not cause suffering. Conibear traps, drowning traps, egg traps, leg-hold traps and neck snares are prohibited. Live traps are allowed. Those with monitors must be tended to within six hours of alert. Live traps without monitors must be checked twice per day.
CROPP Cooperative farmers strive to provide the highest level of care in order to have healthier livestock with stronger immune systems. This decreases any chance of illness. All essential nutrients are provided. Vaccines are used against diseases that may pose a threat to a herd or flock.
Intent: CROPP Cooperative producers manage their herds to maximize the health and immune system of every individual. This enhances animal well-being and reduces the need for antibiotic use.
Standard: The CROPP Cooperative standard is stricter than the NOP. Producers must provide appropriate medical attention. CROPP Cooperative requires antibiotic administration to minimize suffering when all other measures fail. Antibiotic-treated animals must be removed from organic production. Antibiotics must be provided for animals that do not respond to alternative treatment in order to prevent unnecessary suffering.
Intent: Animals should receive a nutritious, well-balanced diet that will maximize health and immunity at every stage of life and is within the realm of what they would normally eat.
Standard: Fish and crab meal are prohibited as feed, feed additives or feed supplements. An exception has been made for the Pork Pool. Fish and crab meal are allowed in young pig diets to satisfy their essential nutrient need for amino acids, which cannot be provided by other sources.
Intent: CROPP Cooperative farmers desire to build natural immunity in their livestock to diseases that may be present on their farms. Vaccines may be used when there is a disease risk that cannot be controlled by other means. The vaccination strategy should be detailed in the animal health plan. Single targeted vaccines are preferred unless there is a problem with multiple diseases.
Standard: The CROPP Cooperative standard is stricter than the NOP, which prohibits any GMO vaccines. Vaccination is optional for bovines and required for laying hens. Producers should vaccinate only against diseases that may be a problem in their geographic region.
Intent: CROPP Cooperative does not support the use of hormones or hormone mimickers in livestock production. Hormone use in livestock speeds growth or impedes the animal’s own biological rhythms, none of which is beneficial to the animal.
Standard: The CROPP Cooperative standard is stricter than the NOP. All hormones, including oxytocin, are prohibited.
Trainings need to occur on- and off-farm for new hires as well as lifelong farmers. Continuing education is paramount as new knowledge becomes available. It is also helpful for those who just need a friendly reminder or who have added a new species to their farm. It is valuable to learn tips and tricks from other producers.
Intent: Training is meant to assure appropriate respect and humane treatment for all livestock on CROPP Cooperative farms. This applies to owner families and hired help.
Standard: Training must be provided on a regular and continuing basis that is clearly understood by all individuals who provide animal care on the farm. Training is intended to expand awareness and recognition that animals feel pain and have the capacity to suffer. The goal of producer training is to keep up-to-date with current recommended animal care techniques and on-farm implementation. Training can be experience-based or written.
Training should include, but not be limited to the following topics:
- Artificial insemination
- Physical alterations and pain management
- Animal handling
- Animal movement and transportation
- Least-invasive animal identification methods
- Body condition assessment
- Lameness recognition and assessment
- Appropriate restraining tool use
- Feeding protocols
- Foraging area and pasture condition assessment
- Identification methods
Farm owners and workers are responsible for being aware and knowledgeable of animal behavior. It is important to be aware of what action is required to get the desired animal response with the least amount of stress.
Intent: Minimize stress and ensure humane treatment for livestock from birth through slaughter. Handlers must understand animals have different hearing and vision systems than humans and react to stresses as prey animals. Aggressive acts can be minimized by maintaining stable social groups, providing adequate space, limiting group size, reducing competition for feed and providing environmental enrichments when mixing groups to provide distraction. Farm animals are herd or flock animals and become stressed if held separately for any length of time. A buddy animal should always be present to keep the at-risk animal calm.
Standard: Livestock must not be mistreated in any way. Animals must be handled in a calm manner in a quiet environment. Animals must move of their own volition and may never be dragged by any body part. Restraint must not be longer than what is required for a specific treatment. Management must focus on minimizing aggressive behaviors.
New animals are introduced gradually and kept separated until others have accepted them. Ill and injured animals are also separated so they can rest comfortably and be provided easy access to food and water to ease their recovery process.
Intent: Provision of hospital areas or pens may prevent disease spread and protect the ill and injured from further stress and injury from other livestock. This area should provide appropriate deep and comfortable bedding for the animal. Fans or sprinklers may be used to keep animals cool in these accommodations during warm weather conditions. During periods of winter weather, efforts to block drafts and keep animals comfortable will be addressed according to individual need. Farm animals are social animals and experience stress when separated from herd- or flock-mates. Therefore, farmers should make every effort to keep any at risk animal with a buddy.
Standard: There must be a designated hospital area or pen where ill or injured animals may be held. Ill or injured animals must receive immediate treatment to minimize pain and suffering, including veterinary attention if the farmer cannot provide prompt relief. Livestock must not be separated from the herd or flock except for veterinary reasons, injury or illness. Separation records must be kept. Hospital areas or pens must conform to all normally required space and bedding requirements.
It is extremely important to choose the healthiest, hardiest individuals with traits that are of value to the species, such as mothering ability, good dispositions and polled characteristic for cattle. These traits are passed on to the following generations.
Intent: Livestock should be bred with their well-being in mind. Breeding choices should be based on selection factors other than solely high production. The focus should be toward animals of optimum health, conformation, with reduced needs for handling and surgical procedures. Desirable traits include, but are not limited to:
- Hardiness in the outdoors
- Mothering ability
- Ability to sustain lactation or production without excessive body condition loss
- Polled characteristic for cattle to make dehorning unnecessary
Standard: There must be a conscious effort to select against genetics that result in additional stress or reduced well-being.
There are different methods of euthanasia available. Animals that must be euthanized should be dealt with in a manner least stressful to them and that is safe for people, other animals in the area and the environment.
Intent: Euthanasia implies an animal has a good death, or one that is free of pain and distress. An animal’s life should only be taken with the highest degree of respect, assuring anxiety and distress is kept to a minimum. Gunshot is an approved euthanasia method and also protects other animals and the environment from drugs or chemicals that may be used in other methods. From a humane perspective, euthanasia by gunshot may cause the least fear and suffering, as the animal does not have to be restrained or handled in any way. Captive bolt is similar to gunshot and may be preferable in some situations or when liability is taken into consideration.
Standard: If severe animal suffering cannot be relieved or the animal is unlikely to recover, the animal must be promptly and humanely euthanized on the farm in a manner approved by the American Veterinary Medical Association, Association of American Bovine Practitioners or American Association of Swine Practitioners. Information is included in your pool manual and is available online at