If you’re driving along Iowa’s highways and have a question or maybe a concern about something you see on a farm while you are out and about, now you can reach out to an expert.
Iowans are encouraged to contact the Iowa Farm Animal Care (IFAC) coalition, a first-of-its-kind network of professionals, veterinarians, animal behavior scientists and farmers committed to addressing Iowans’ questions regarding farm animal care.
The IFAC experts, advisors and supporters, including the Iowa Farm Bureau and the Iowa Pork Producers Association, share one vision – that every Iowa farm animal receives proper, humane animal care, explains Mike Telford, IFAC executive director and an animal scientist.
“We want to assist (farmers) and make sure they are successful and that they have all the tools that they need,” Telford says.
All questions and reports are kept confidential. However, you will be asked to provide a farm’s location and your contact info so an expert can get back to you with a response, Telford explains.
“We want people to feel free to call and know that their identity is safe,” Telford says.
Telford says calls to the IFAC hotline tend to peak in the summer and winter months, when Iowa’s weather is at its most extreme.
One of the most common questions relates to transportation, he says. Sometimes, drivers will see a semi-load of hogs traveling on the interstate and wonder if the animals are freezing in the winter temperatures, Telford says.
In reality, hogs give off a lot of heat when they are huddled together, and they stay warm inside the semi, Telford says.
“Typically, most truckers will throw in some extra bedding, and they have panels that can close those holes in the semi,” Telford says. “Truckers who are well trained know exactly how many panels are needed to block those holes and maintain the proper temperature.”
Telford says Iowa farmers are also well-trained in best management practices to protect farm animal health and well-being — in all types of weather.
“Most cattle farmers, pork producers, sheep producers, goat milk producers are professional animal scientists,” Telford says. “Farmers out there today are professionally trained, they go to ongoing education, and they are continually updated on all sorts of health issues in regards to farm animals."
Farmers also strive to be transparent about how they care for farm animals, which is why IFAC was formed, Telford says.
If you see something on a livestock farm that doesn’t look quite right to you, feel free to call IFAC so animal health experts can follow up, Telford says.
IFAC works closely with an advisory committee of experts from the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship; Iowa State University; the Iowa Department of Transportation; the Animal Rescue League of Iowa; and the Iowa Sheriffs and Deputies Association, which is often the first responder in cases involving animal neglect.
When IFAC receives a question, oftentimes it can be answered immediately, Telford says.
For example, IFAC once responded to a call from an out-of-state traveler wondering why cattle were penned and didn’t have access to grass to eat.
Telford explained to the caller that the cattle were raised in a feedlot, where the animals eat from a feed bunk and receive a nutritionally optimal diet.
“There may be a production method that is totally a best management practice, but (the caller) maybe didn’t know that’s the way producers do it now, and we can answer those questions,” Telford says.
In a few instances, a call has alerted the IFAC experts to a problem on a farm that needs to be addressed.
Sometimes, it’s a hobby farmer who may be inexperienced at raising farm animals. Or in extreme cases, it could be a farmer who is experiencing financial strains or mental health issues, Telford says.
If so, then a team of Iowa State University animal health and well-being experts follow up and visit the farm to give recommendations for improvement.
“I certainly encourage neighbors or anybody else to give us a call,” Telford says. “And when they do call, I thank them profusely. There isn’t any way we can address a bad situation if we don’t know about it.”