Meristem Land and Science: Driving Progress in Sustainability

NewStream Farm Animal Care, Volume 1, Edition 7

Pig Code at the crossroads

March 12, 2013

Florian Possberg discusses the progress toward a bold new blueprint for farm animal care and the unique opportunity it represents for industry progress

Among all the new Codes of Practice under development for the care and handling of farm animals in Canada, arguably none has greater economic implications than the Pig Code.

This document is also gaining recognition as one of the most important opportunities for the struggling sector to set its future on a more positive track and strengthen its relationships in a fast-shifting marketplace with new expectations.

"Our industry has really gone through five years of hell in a hand basket," says Florian Possberg, chair of the Pig Code Committee. "This is one of our opportunities for a fresh start. It's important we get it right, for two primary reasons. First, for the job this document needs to do for the animals and for Canada to be a leader in farm animal welfare. It critical we do what's right by the animals and we address what's expected of us from the general public.

"Also just as important is to have something that is workable and makes sense for our producers, which is not an easy task at a time when there are few resources for any major changes. But because it's not easy doesn't mean we can afford to shy away from it. This document is very important as a building block to a successful and sustainable future for our industry."

What's the right direction to take? That's the question now on several fronts - from gestation stalls and space allowance to pain mitigation - as the sectors faces an important crossroads in addressing these issues.

Click here to read the complete feature article.

Transport in the spotlight

March 12, 2013

It's often the most visible part of the livestock industry and a big focus for supporting animal care

One of the latest examples of progress is in Alberta, where a new fleet of livestock emergency handling equipment trailers have been deployed and a new training course is set to launch.

Click on the links for insider's views and updates on these developments and more:

Building a new perspective on pain

March 12, 2013

Research is underway to improve the practical options for producers to meet rising expectations for pain mitigation

What are society's expectations for pain mitigation in livestock?

One way to think about this issue is to look at it through the lens of the average Canadian pet owner, says Dr. Ed Pajor, When people take their pet to the veterinarian to have a procedure done, there are analgesics offered both before and after. "The question becomes 'why isn't this done for all animals?'"

Click here to read the complete feature article.


March 12, 2013

Quick takes on key activity and what's coming, from NewStream editors

Animal care part of Egg Farmers of Alberta top producer award

Many farm associations recognize the importance of honoring producers who lead by example. Traditionally, most awards for sustainability have been built around environmental stewardship. But as the definition of sustainability has broadened out, more of these awards reflect leadership in other areas, including farm animal care.

The Egg Farmers of Alberta presented their Producer of the Year Award at their recent annual meeting in Red Deer, and animal care is a part of the broad core criteria. Along with having a high rating on the "Start Clean Stay Clean" food safety and having a completed Environmental Farm Plan, producers must have a high score on the egg industry's animal care program.

This year's winner of Producer of the Year is the Greenwood Colony, from Fort Macleod. Honourable mention went to the Morinville Colony, near Morinville and the Fairlane Colony, of Skiff, Alta.

Social license message delivered to Alberta poultry industry

Many organizations across North America have heard the presentations from Charlie Arnot of the Centre for Food Integrity. His organization continues to create waves in the industry with research findings and strategies to create "social license," the public trust that is necessary in order for agriculture to have the freedom to operate.

Arnot's presentation included an update on one of the most aggressive attempts of producers to gain that social licensee, the historic agreement in the U.S. between United Egg Producers (UEP) and the powerful Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). That agreement and the opposition to it have been covered widely in agriculture including in previous NewStream articles.

Arnot told his Red Deer audience of Alberta Egg Farmers that there are big challenges to the HSUS – UEP agreement and big questions as to whether it will ever be passed in the U.S.

There's division within the egg industry and there is strong opposition from others in animal agriculture, he says. The American Farm Bureau Federation, regarded as the most powerful pro-farm lobby organization in the U.S., is strongly opposed to this. The cattle industry is strongly opposed. The pork industry is also strongly opposed. "There are a lot more voters in those organizations that the egg industry has," he says.

Politically it's a very challenging situation. "You may have heard we have a fiscal challenge in the U.S. We can't quite balance our checkbook and we're not quite sure what to do about it. We have a polarized Congress that's not able to pass popular measures even when they have strong popular support. I'm not sure today they could pass a resolution that says hydrogen and oxygen produces water. They're that dysfunctional in terms of where they are at today."

Arnot says legislators have they've set a relatively aggressive timeline for adoption and the first time they tried it, the last congressional session it didn't pass. "The odds are stacked against it and it's going to be a tough climb for UEP to get that done. UEP continues to work hard toward that and is optimistic toward its passing. They obviously face some challenges from others in agriculture who don't share that point of view."

Editor's note: Charlie Arnot also presented a similar talk at the Western Canadian Dairy Seminar. That seminar also featured a special "Hands-on assessment of dairy cattle welfare" workshop, led by Dr. Ed Pajor and Dr. Karin Orsel of the University of Calgary Faculty of Veterinary Medicine. An in-depth session on assessment models will be featured at the upcoming Livestock Care Conference in Calgary.

Reminder: Don't miss the Livestock Care Conference March 21-22 in Calgary

We've said it before. We'll say it again. One of the best places to get a get an inside track on the latest developments, issues and progress in farm animal care is the Livestock Care Conference (LCC). It's coming up quick and Cowtown plays host. Many of the topics and developments highlighted in NewStream Farm Animal Care will be showcased at this conference. Don't miss it. If you haven't registered, go here now for information: www.afac.ab.ca/lcc.

LCC is hosted by Alberta Farm Animal Care (AFAC) in partnership with the Alberta Veterinary Medical Association (ABVMA).

"The conference provides an opportunity for producers, researchers, industry, students, government and the public to address animal welfare issues from all sectors of the livestock industry," says Larry Delver, producer vice-chair of AFAC. It typically draws both speakers and attendance from across Canada, along with representation from the U.S. and internationally.

"The conference has built an anchor role in helping our livestock sectors get a window on what's coming in livestock welfare and how we can work together to meet the challenges and opportunities," says Delver. "The discussion around livestock welfare has never been more important to how we manage, both at the on-farm level and the industry level, to meet today's consumer expectations and stay at the leading edge. We encourage everyone from individual producers to livestock industry leaders to participate as we seek out the best approaches and innovative solutions."

An LCC communications program around the conference is also anchored on the AFAC LCC website at www.afac.ab.ca/lcc, including a link to a special "LCC News Blog" covering key action leading up to and during the conference. Watch for Twitter updates at the hashtag "#LCC2013."




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