Gold Standard Dairy Program

Dairy Farmers of America’s (DFA) Gold Standard Dairy Program, one of the first in the industry, is an on-farm evaluation program that assesses our more than 8,500 family-owned dairy farms on the areas of animal care, environmental stewardship, employee safety and training and milk safety and quality. The program assesses, analyzes and provides feedback regarding on-farm practices, encourages continuous improvement and recognizes achievements. Since its inception in 2007, the program has gone through four iterations, incorporating updated standards, areas of consumer concern and the latest technology.

DFA’s Gold Standard Dairy Program follows these guiding principles: 

  • Animal Care (FARM): Healthy cows produce quality milk, therefore, members are assessed on their animal feed, nutrition and housing. Additionally, their calf handling, working relationship with their veterinarian and nutritionists, standard operating and record keeping procedures and their care for sick animals are also evaluated.
    The Gold Standard Dairy Program incorporates National Milk Producers Federation’s National Dairy Farmers Assuring Responsible Management (FARM) Animal Care Program as its animal care component. The FARM program sets industry-wide guidelines for animal care and wellness best practices.
  • Environmental Stewardship: Technology and innovation create energy-efficient farms, thus members’ manure management systems, water and energy conservation measures, pesticide and fertilizer use and soil sampling programs, among others, are assessed.
  • Employee Safety and Training: Consistent training among all employees is vital on a farm. Our field representatives analyze members’ employee safety measures, animal handling and milking procedures.
  • Milk Safety and Quality: To ensure the safety and quality of all our products, key factors we evaluate include cow comfort and cleanliness, milking standards and facility sanitation.

Evaluator Training

As part of the DFA Gold Standard Dairy Program, there is strong emphasis on follow‐up and continuous improvement actions that can be taken post‐evaluation. During the evaluation process, certain producer responses, as entered by the field representative, will electronically solicit prepared materials to be sent to the producer. Examples of such resources include templates for policies and operating procedures and animal care agreements.

On-farm evaluations are conducted by DFA’s team of field representatives, which undergoes extensive Gold Standard training, including hours of classroom training and practical experience gained from further on‐farm visits throughout the year. DFA’s field representatives work regularly with members to provide resources and support in implementing best practices that help our members’ farms remain sustainable for generations to come. We’re proud to have 100 percent of our field representatives trained as program evaluators.

As part of the FARM Program, all evaluated farms are subject to third‐party verification. Third‐party verification acts as an extra provision in order to maintain the integrity of the program.