Editor's note: The following article was written by Heidi Franzky with the South Dakota State University Extension.
Over time, the image of raising livestock has changed as new production technologies and management systems have been introduced. However, the foundation of livestock husbandry remains the same. Livestock producers seek to provide for the needs of the animal and in return, animals provide healthy food products for our growing population.
Raising livestock is a complex endeavor. Producers must implement disease prevention programs, handle and transport animals in a low stress manner, adapt management plans in responses to weather extremes, adjust feed rations to match the animal’s need, and monitor body condition scores. Many things are necessary to promote overall livestock well-being. Livestock stewardship is a daily responsibility. A responsibility that requires animal caretakers to evaluate their actions and decisions to ensure they are appropriate at all times. We should consider the animal’s response when we are performing routine tasks to provide indicators of possible well-being concerns that may indicate opportunities for improvement of the operation. The key to successful livestock stewardship is setting high expectations of each other as fellow livestock producers. We need to take ownership of our responsibility to follow through with what we say we are going to do to provide quality food products.
Promoting Our Responsibility
In July, I started my new position as SDSU’s Livestock Stewardship Extension Associate.This exciting opportunity will expand on current livestock Extension programs to incorporate additional information and resources for producers, consumers, and youth concerning animal well-being. I will work closely with livestock specialists and other experts to provide educational material on evaluating livestock well-being. Additionally, I desire to build relationships within the livestock industry and among veterinarians to ensure critical production challenges and potential consumer concerns are being addressed.
A main goal for the livestock stewardship program is to partner with livestock organizations on their quality assurance programs and promote South Dakota producer participation in these programs. Quality assurance programs are a great foundation for responsible livestock production and show consumers our commitment to animal care.
Another area of focus is youth. The basics of animal well-being should be incorporated into all youth animal projects. A Youth Pork Quality Assurance program is already being offered through the support of the Pork Check Off. To ensure the future integrity of our food supply, it is imperative to provide similar programs for the other species within youth programs.
South Dakota producers play an integral role in the United States’ food supply. As such, it is important to demonstrate a commitment to livestock stewardship through our daily actions, voluntary participation in quality assurance programs, and education of future livestock producers and consumers.