Animal Care Specialists Focus on Care in Transport

By Jennifer Woods, animal care specialist

Over the past 10 years, the agriculture industry, along with government, has invested significant time, brain-power, and research dollars into improving livestock transport. From environmental management and protection, to welfare indicators, to ideal time in transit, to handling and finally trailer design, all aspects of animal transport have been reviewed in our quest for constant improvement of animal welfare.

Bison are loaded and headed to the U.S. Photo credit: Robert Johnson

Bison are loaded and headed to the U.S. Photo credit: Robert Johnson

Canada is the only country that has a livestock transport training program (Canadian Livestock Transport Certification) that allows livestock transporters, handlers, and producers to become certified in transport of five species: cattle, sheep, pigs, horses, and poultry. To date, over 2,000 people are currently CLT certified.

Animals arriving at slaughter plants and departing or arriving at feedlots are audited to insure animal welfare standards are being met. Loads are also regularly inspected by CFIA for compliance to our animal transportation regulations.

Did you know? There’s an app for Farm Animal Care! It includes information on best practices for animal transport. Read about that, here.

All of the major commodity groups in Canada (cattle, sheep, dairy, pigs, horses, and poultry) have developed guidelines and decision trees to insure all animals being transported are fit for the ride. These tools provide farmers, ranchers, and drivers with direction and guidance on what animals can be transported.

First responders, enforcement personnel, and transporters across Canada have been provided opportunities for training in Livestock Emergency Response for motor vehicle accidents. They also have access to numerous rescue trailers specifically designed for response to emergency situations involving livestock.

Animal care specialists are continually working towards improvement in livestock transport through awareness, education, and management tools. Through training programs, transport auditing, research collaboration, and program development, farmers and transporters are provided many opportunities to expand their knowledge, develop their skills, and insure they are always doing what is best for the animals in their care.

A Canadian Rancher’s Take on Earls’ Beef Campaign

Adrienne Ivey is a Canadian rancher, blogger, and mother. This post originally appeared on her blog The View from the Ranch Porch

Earls Kitchen and Bar has set the Canadian farming world all a-twitter.  The restaurant chain has recently launched a new marketing campaign promoting their latest development in beef  — “Certified Humane” raised without the use of antibiotics or added hormones and steroids.

I don’t (didn’t) mind Earls as a dining option. Up until now, they sourced their beef for their 56 Canadian restaurants here, in Canada. They have great summertime patios, and they make fantastic Caesars. Their head office is in Vancouver, and their first ever location was started in 1982 in Edmonton, Alberta. Sounds good, right? Then suddenly their marketing took a turn that just doesn’t sit right with me.

EArl's ad

Earls Restaurant’s marketing campaign

Their first words of their sourcing strategy label their beef as “Certified Humane,” which struck immediate warning bells for me. As a beef producer, I have had the opportunity to visit and tour MANY cattle farms. I can say, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that the vast majority of Canadian Beef farms and ranches are raising their cattle in a humane way.

We are ranchers for a reason. We like working with animals every day. I have no issue with weeding out the “bad apples” that are bound to turn up in any industry, but these bad farmers are so uncommon, I cannot imagine the need to base your entire purchasing decision around them. I visited the label’s website and most specifically their producer page. On the page directed towards the farmers who would use their certification process, there was zero information on what they considered “humane”, zero mention of how becoming certified humane would benefit a farmer’s animals, zero mention of ways to make a farm more humane for its animals.

So what was the producer page for? Sales. It was touted as a way to sell more product. End of story. Andrew Campbell wrote an article for Real Agriculture about what exactly certified humane means… not much. To top this one off, Canada already has steps to make sure our animals are raised humanely. The Canadian Beef Code of Practices is something each and every one of us take pride in, something we follow because it is the right thing to do, not because we get paid more money for it.

So there’s that. I moved on a few words to “without the use of antibiotics”. This is perhaps the most terrifying marketing catch phrase in my mind. Why? Because this directly impacts animal welfare. I fully believe that healthy animals begin with prevention. The old adage “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” is completely true. The problem is that all sickness cannot be eradicated with prevention alone. Just like people, animals get sick sometimes — it’s a fact of life.

Finally, to the point of “no added hormones or steroids”. This I have spoken about many times. With the use of proven  safe methods, including hormones, Canadian farmers are now able produce MORE beef (32% more), while using significantly fewer resources (24% less land and 29% less breeding stock), and creating a significantly SMALLER environmental footprint (producing 15% less greenhouse gasses). I wrote about this HERE. Can we produce beef without hormone implants? Sure. But why choose to do less with more if it is a proven, safe, efficient method? To learn more about hormone use in beef read here or here.

To read the rest of this blog entry, which includes a discussion on Earls sourcing beef from outside of the country, click here.

Barn fires are devastating to all involved

By John Maaskant, chicken farmer and chair of Farm & Food Care Ontario

barn fire 4a

Stock photo

There have been a lot of news stories lately about barn fires in Ontario. Without exception, the stories have been tragic and the incidents devastating to these farm families in so many ways – with the loss of animals being at the very top of that list. Often, a barn fire affects an entire community with neighbours joining together to support each other and help clean up the terrible aftermath. Economic concerns, while very real, are always secondary to the loss of farm animals that these farmers have raised and nurtured.

And it doesn’t matter what type of farm animals are involved. The dairy farmer who milks his or her barn full of cows every morning and night – and knows each of their individual traits – is as emotionally affected as a pig farmer, horse owner or chicken farmer like me. Continue reading

Farming with a focus on learning

By: Matt McIntosh

2010 calendarWalt Freeman loves to learn and has no doubt that farming has been one of the most engaging educational opportunities he has ever had.

Walt and Heather – his wife of 35 years – are the owners of a Battersea-area mink farm. The farm backs up to a small lake and was built on land originally purchased by his grandfather in 1921. The couple still live in the original farmhouse, and currently produce an average of 15,000 fur pelts every year. Continue reading

Some thoughts on the Food “Free” Frenzy

By Crystal Mackay, CEO Farm & Food Care Canada

Trends continue to snowball with labels about what’s in a food product being expanded to how that food was grown or processed. Gluten-free, antibiotic-free, hormone-free, cage-free, everything-else-free labels are multiplying. It seems almost every day I see a new announcement from a company or a grocery store ad or a label on something I go to buy that has a claim like this.

With so much noise, how does one cut through the clutter and make an informed decision about what to buy and eat? Here are a few principles I feel that need some attention:

1. Isn’t choice awesome?
Let’s start here. I think we are extremely fortunate in Canada with so much food that we can have all these choices. For example, the fact that the egg counter at the grocery store can be a 10 minute experience reading about all the options for types of eggs is awesome. Some people in other countries might be happy to have one egg. Continue reading

The Real Dirt on the Codes of Practice

The Real Dirt on the Codes of PracticeBy Kristen Kelderman, Farm & Food Care’s Farm Animal Care Coordinator

As Canadians, we are very fortunate to have many privileges that others do not. Our great nation boasts the luxuries of real maple syrup, moose sightings, caffeinated beverages from Tim Hortons and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to name a few.

But did you know that Canada also stands out on the world stage when it comes to farm animal care? In Canada, we have Codes of Practice for 14 different farm animal species. They are often referred to in the farming community as the Codes.

So what are these Codes? They act as our standards for farm animal care and handling across Canada.

The first Code was developed in 1980. All are now the responsibility of the National Farm Animal Care Council (NFACC).

Each Code has requirements and recommendations within each document and contains other useful information on caring for farm animals.

I like to say that if you wanted to become a farmer tomorrow, the Code could serve as your guide book for what you needed to know for animal care. The Code won’t teach you how to milk a cow or how to formulate a diet for your pigs, but it explains what is expected for the health and welfare of the farm animals.

Many countries have standards and rules around animal care, so what makes the Codes so special? It’s actually the unique development process and group of people involved.

Each Code is updated by a Code Development committee of industry stakeholders. They include veterinarians, scientists and academics, transporters, the food and restaurant industries, Canadian Federation of Humane Societies, government and farmers. It’s quite a diverse group of industry experts and professionals that has yet to be replicated in other parts of the world.

But before the Code development committee even meets, a scientific committee is organized to compile a collection of all the research and academic information available globally on farm animal care related to that species. This information is used as the basis for developing content for the Code.

Once the scientific committee has completed its review, the code development committee presents a first round draft. This first draft is then open to a public comment period. During this allotted time period anyone can submit comments for review on the content of the Code. The number of comment submissions has ranged from 120 to over 4,700.

The Code development committee then meets to discuss the comments they’ve received and how to move forward with the collected comments. Based on this information, they work to produce a finalized document.

According to NFACC, the end result “is a Code that is scientifically informed, practical, and reflects societal expectations for responsible farm animal care.”

The whole process takes about two years. It’s not a quick process, but it’s a thorough one.

Final decisions are consensus-based meaning that every member of the development committee must agree. You can imagine that it could take some time for everyone to agree on each requirement and recommendation within the Code.

Because of this process, our Canadian Codes of Practice are recognized around the world.

To find more information or to see the full version of each Code visit www.nfacc.ca and look under the Codes of Practice tab.

Bringing the Codes into the 21st century.

If you’ve ever picked up a copy of any Code of Practice or scrolled through the pdf version online, you’ll quickly see that that they are large and extremely detailed.

In an effort to help present information in the Code in a unique and novel way, Farm & Food Care’s IMPACT program (Innovative Management and Practical Animal Care Training) is currently developing interactive modules for each updated Code. Each module covers the requirements in each section of the Code and has supplemental questions and activities that users must complete related to the recommendations outlined in the Code.

Users must complete all the questions and activities to receive their certificate indicating that they are competent and understand the content of the Code. It takes about an hour or two to complete the full module.

If a farmer hires a new employee or needs a refresher on the Code content, they can log in and navigate through the module at their own speed. The intent of these modules is to increase the reach of the Codes and provide alternative ways for people to understand them and their content.

To learn more about IMPACT visit www.farmIMPACT.ca.

Farmers continue to invest in the best practices for their animals and do the right thing on their farms every day. The Codes are a great example of that.

Veterinarians play an important role in farm biosecurity

Each summer veterinary students from the Ontario Veterinary College delve into that practical experience at veterinary clinics across Ontario and additional locales. These blog posts are an opportunity to tag along with nine of them this summer.

By Ed Metzger

Ed Metzger, Ontario Veterinary College class of 2016

Ed Metzger, Ontario Veterinary College class of 2016

Veterinarians play important role in upholding high biosecurity standards.

Basically, biosecurity encompasses everything we do to keep the existing “bugs” on a farm contained, and keep other bad bugs out; it’s a way of confining avenues of disease such as viruses and bacteria to one place and limiting their spread. Biosecurity is an issue swine veterinarians deal with on a daily basis, and has been a cornerstone of practice during my time at South West.

So how do you reduce or stop the spread of disease from farm to farm? This can sometimes be a very tricky task. Some of the main ways that viruses spread from farm to farm are on animals themselves when a producer brings new animals to his farm, and on people: their boots, clothes, and the vehicles they are driving. Some common viruses such as PRRS (Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome) can even become aerosolized and spread through the air – this presents a major challenge! Because of this, there has been an overwhelming response and acceptance, from producers and industry personnel, to adopt practices to reduce the spread of disease. Continue reading

Some good news on animal welfare

Jean L Clavelle

Lately my professional world seems to be focusing on the negative – on everything that’s not happening, how agriculture seems to be under constant attack, what we are not doing that we should. Today, I’ve decided to focus on the positive. I wanted to share some of the great work that our local and North American livestock ag community is doing for animal welfare.

To start, the 4th Annual International Beef Welfare Symposium is set to be held July 16 to 18 at Iowa State University (www.cpm.iastate.edu/beefwelfare) This conference was designed to offer producers, processors, retailers, government officials, NGOs, animal scientists, veterinarians and students the opportunity to discuss, debate and learn about the current and emerging welfare issues that face the beef cattle industry. Renowned beef cattle experts, bovine practitioners, philosophers and animal scientists will offer their insight and perspective and discuss the latest research findings during the invited presentations and poster session. Something that will benefit everyone involved in livestock agriculture and help to spread a positive message on the importance of animal welfare. Continue reading

Do you know what Animal Welfare really means?

In my 15 years studying, researching and being employed in agriculture I’ve had many discussions with urban and agricultural friends, family, colleagues and even strangers about the meaning of animal welfare.  Often this conversation begins with animal welfare and then diverges into other different and oftentimes unrelated topics.  One such discussion began with welfare of laying hens in cages then turned into a discussion of the nutritional benefits of eggs from hens fed different diets.  I suspect welfare is never a short discussion because in many people’s minds welfare is associated with so many other issues.

So, what is Animal Welfare?
Continue reading

Dear Ryan Gosling…

Dear Ryan Gosling:

Letter sent to the Globe and Mail – July 11, 2013

To the Editor:

Putting ‘Actor turned animal welfare expert’ criticisms aside, let’s correct the premise first – a pig is not a dog or a chicken or a bat or a dolphin. They all have very different housing, health and care needs.  Although it may not come up at many Golden Globe parties, millions of dollars have been invested in researching farm animal welfare.  Virtually none of that money has come from the animal rights critics Mr. Gosling has aligned himself with to write this commentary, even though they fundraise to ‘improve animal welfare.’

The Code of Practice for Pigs is an amazingly Canadian process.  It’s based on science and put together with input from government, the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies, agriculture and food industry and farmers themselves. There is always a need for continuous improvement in farming, and critics voicing their disapproval is part of that process.  However, I support a more reasonable approach to improving animal welfare based on science and practical farm experience, which may not be as sexy, but might actually help real animals in real barns in Canada today and tomorrow.

Sincerely,

Crystal Mackay, Executive Director, Farm & Food Care Ontario

To see Ryan Gosling’s original opinion piece, visit here: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/commentary/a-tiny-cage-is-not-a-life/article13117337/