Meristem Land and Science: Driving Progress in Sustainability


Strategies for success: Industry perspectives

One of the best indications of the latest trends in farm animal care is the progress of the producer organizations at the leading edge

Posted: April 5, 2013

Producer organizations on the front line of the care and handling of farm animals are leading the charge in advancing Canada's preparedness for new marketplace expectations around livestock welfare. Three examples were highlighted at the 2013 Livestock Care Conference in Calgary. Each provides a barometer of the rising pressures different livestock sectors face as well as a window on the innovative approaches they are adopting to meet the new demands and improve their position for a successful future.

Perspectives on progress

Here's a brief overview of some key developments and perspectives highlighted during this session.

Mike Slomp, Industry and Member Services Manager of Alberta Milk

Mike Slomp, Alberta Milk. Dairy farmers have been at the forefront of progress to implement a newly updated Code of Practice for the care and handling of dairy animals, through the Code process coordinated by the National Farm Animal Care Council (NFACC). The Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Farm Animals: Dairy Cattle was released in 2009 and has provided the sector with an up-to-date reference for supporting best practices under a unified approach.

The sector is also working toward the development of an on-farm assessment program that would provide assurance the Codes are being followed, using the Animal Care Assessment Model framework developed through NFACC. The Model is still in draft form and the dairy sector is pilot testing it over 2012-2013.

"Codes serve as an insurance policy for making sure all farm animal care stakeholders know the expectations," says Mike Slomp, Industry and Member Services Manager of Alberta Milk. "Assessment programs are a way to demonstrate the Codes are being followed."

The dairy sector across Canada is now making plans to integrate its farm animal welfare approaches into a new program under development called the "proAction Initiative," which is aimed at streamlining the national delivery of all on-farm programs in the dairy industry. This initiative has been developed for potential approval at dairy meetings this summer. Under proAction, farmers would implement a single, national, credible, practical on-farm program that pulls together everything sustainability related, from food safety and quality to environment and animal welfare.

Trevor Prout, Producer Programs Manager of Alberta Chicken Producers

Trevor Prout, Alberta Chicken Producers. "Say what you do. Do what you say. That's the key," says Trevor Prout, Producer Programs Manager of Alberta Chicken Producers. Chicken Farmers of Canada has worked with the provincial organizations to design and implement an innovative animal welfare program that includes an assessment-based certification component. Alberta was the first province to implement mandatory compliance.

The factors driving this progress have been clear to chicken producers and their industry for some time, says Prout. "Animal care is clearly gaining importance and impact in consumer spending patterns and there is more pressure and expectations coming at us from different levels. Codes have a role but we need more than voluntary programs. With the increasing pressure, it is no longer sufficient to say appropriate animal care practices are in place - now we must prove it."

The animal welfare program for chicken producers consists of both mandatory and highly recommended requirements, he says. It provides recommendations for "best practices" to facilitate implementation and is based on a strong record keeping component to facilitate auditing.

As of March 2012, 100 percent of Alberta producer have been initially certified on the program. "We believe this supports a positive image for Alberta's chicken industry to consumers and a stronger competitive position for Alberta's chicken industry."

Catherine Scovil, Associate Director of the Canadian Pork Council

Catherine Scovil, Canadian Pork Council. Many of the same drivers have led to similar progress in the pork industry. "We have a long history with Codes, but we determined Codes alone were not enough," says Catherine Scovil, Associate Executive Director of the Canadian Pork Council "We needed a way to demonstrate on-farm practices and we wanted producers to be part of the process. There was concern that if industry didn't take the lead, others would. So that's what we did."

Progress coordinated by the Council supported the development of the industry's Animal Care Assessment program - one of the first implemented among livestock sectors in Canada. Over 90 percent of Canadian hog production complies with the model, which became part of the CQA program in 2012.

The core of the assessment program is the Code of Practice. This is currently being updated through the NFACC-led Code development process that the Canadian Pork Council is supporting and helping to coordinate. The assessment program includes animal, environment and process-based measures and uses a HAACP-type approach of focusing on critical control points.

"The new Code is aiming toward an even broader view of welfare that takes into consideration a wider range of biological function, affective states and natural living considerations," says Scovil. "Once it is in place we plan to pursue an updated assessment approach using the NFACC model. This will provide us with a means to ensure the future Code changes are implemented, providing a solid defense for our industry and customers."

The 2013 Livestock Care Conference was hosted by Alberta Farm Animal Care (AFAC) in partnership with the Alberta Veterinary Medical Association. For more information and links to additional reports on speaker presentations, visit the conference website at lcc.afac.ab.ca.

Reprintable with credit. This article is available for reprint, with acknowledgement of the source as Meristem Land and Science, www.meristem.com.

Meristem is a Calgary-based communications firm that specializes in writing about western agriculture, food and land use. More articles at www.meristem.com.




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