This past Saturday we had a first visit from the Animal Welfare Approved Agency. You can visit their website here http://www.animalwelfareapproved.org/ to learn more about their program and to view their standards.
I’ve always stated that I am a animal lover and not a farmer. I guess this comes from my heart felt feelings I have for the animals on my farm. I do not eat my goats but I am not a vegitarian either. I do not have a problem with anyone eating the animals they raised so please don’t send me millions of emails telling me about myself either. What I do take issue in is how animals are cared for.
Some say it doesn’t matter and “they are just animals”. I say absolutely not. It does matter. Every animal should be well cared for and well fed. They give us the ultimate sacrifice…their own lives. I think this alone entitles them to be treated with care, respect, and dignity. AWA seems to think like I do and this is why I chose to participate in their program.
Wendy who is a fellow goat owner and veterinarian came out to the farm this past Saturday. She looked over the herd and their living conditions. We went over our herd, how we raise them, how we care for them, and how we feed them. She took pictures and then sat down with us. At our kitchen table, we went over each section of AWA’s standards to see where we stood in compliance.
I guess this would scare most people but to be quite honest, it was completely painless. We found the only thing we were behind in was record keeping and disaster planning. The record keeping we knew was a problem and actually had already begun working on this. We are currently looking at several computer programs geared toward dairy goat farmers. Something to help us keep track of vaccinations, worming, breeding, and medications, etc. We already do this but not on the computer. We are a little disorganized I guess you could say. When you have 50 goats, it’s time to get your act together. I want to be able to sit down and plug the info in. I want the computer to say “hey moron…did you vaccinate such and such with CDT? She’s going to be overdue if you don’t do it now”. Anyone know of anything like that?
The other thing we need to do is write a disaster plan SOP. Now most people don’t think of this but what the heck do you do in case of a flood, blizzard or snow storm. What do you do if the power goes out, etc.? Again, we have it all in our minds what to do but nothing written down. Again, it’s time to spend sometime writing it all down so if someone is taking care of the farm for us and the world comes to an end, he knows to pull the book and look up the section “what to do with the goats when the world is coming to an end”. No big deal, I have given this job to my husband who has written only maybe a thousand SOP’s in his lifetime.
Then I guess the biggest deal we found is we don’t agree with AWA on when to band buck kids. They want us to do it within that first couple weeks of birth. Man, that is just too young in our opinion. We feel it is better to wait until their testicles drop. This gives them time for their little urinary tracks to develop as well. We watched a couple of goats suffer from urinary calculi once (at the county fair) and I really would rather never have to witness such a site again. It tore me up inside. I know that there are varying opinions on this. Some say to wait until they are older and others agree with AWA. I also know there are lots of variables to urinary calculi. I personally think you should wait until the buck kids are a little older but I do believe in wethering before they are two months of age. Either way, urinary calculi has never happened in my herd (knocking on woood as I type that) so I think we must be doing things right.
Other than that, we we in accordance to their standards. It was completely painless. Wendy said she would be recommending us to the AWA board for approval. I sure hope that we are approved as I would love to say that I am the very first goat farm in Pa to become AWA approved. So I guess they will be getting back to me in the next couple of weeks to let me know where I stand.
Regardless, I do suggest Animal Welfare Approved Agency to other farmers out there. They have standards for most farm animals…pigs, sheep, cows (dairy and beefers), etc. They also do a competitive grant of $10,000 for the AWA members. Once approved, you can use their seal on your products as well and they have a marketing team. Maybe I am nuts but who wouldn’t want to tell the world that your animals are treated with love, care, and compassion. Most people I currently sell soap to seem to care a whole lot.